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Opinion: Mount Abe building renovation plan ill-conceived

While I remain a committed supporter of Mount Abraham Union High School, I am disappointed with the plan for renovation and upkeep. Rather than fitting building plans to the significant steps Mount Abe has made over 40 years toward improved learning, the plan seems to aim toward a restoration of structures designed for 1968, when the school was built.
Since then, the school has adopted block scheduling, advisories, learning projects, networked computers, electronic portfolios, an information center, lots of student exhibitions, student-designed courses and personalized learning — all organized so each student can develop and demonstrate the school’s new Graduation Competencies. Innovations such as these — that support learning for each individual — cannot develop further in a new library, gym or refurbished space.
Increased student contact with teachers is essential to any school aiming to improve learning, but advisories and student projects require smaller areas where teachers and small groups can meet to plan and learn together. Currently, linoleum floors outside the classroom door are where individuals and small groups work on projects. Two project areas can be found in the new plan, but they are not connected to classrooms where students can get help.
The new computer labs have grown to meet demand, but smaller spaces near classrooms would bring information to the place where it is needed.
Teachers, parents and students often meet informally on the two wooden benches near the foyer. With its wide hallways, the building needs more benches spread out where conversations actually take place.
Classrooms currently “landlocked” away from windows would serve better as places for student projects, writing, computer research and some storage for student work than for classes.
We have the floor space we need, but it now encapsulates the kind of teaching and learning practiced at Mount Abe nearly 50 years ago. The current plan brims over with love for the school. The commitment of the planning group is obvious. But the plan itself needs redevelopment if we really want to equip each of our students with 21st-century skills and knowledge.
John Clarke
Starksboro

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