Legacy 2020: Progress Update
A vision comes to life
A walk through Queensbury High School will leave you with a new perspective of what education now looks like for students: flexible, collaborative learning environments have replaced rows of desks and chairs, and as you pass classrooms, there are clear lines of sight into them.
“It’s exciting to see the level of engagement that students have as a result,” said Superintendent Dr. Douglas Huntley. “The educational technology in conjunction with the physical layout of the building is very conducive to teaching and learning.”
From groundbreaking to ribbon cutting, the project will take two school years to complete. While at the halfway point this month, there has been significant progress already made, with students and teachers using many of the new spaces every day. A new student parking lot was completed in time for the start of school in September, as well as a new campus entrance, allowing people two ways to enter campus each day and reducing previous congestion on Aviation Rd.
“The second entrance has worked really well and has exceeded our expectations,” said Dr. Huntley. “I want to thank the community, particularly parents and students, for adjusting quickly to the new traffic patterns and for driving safely on campus.”
What was a parking area in front of the high school was taken offline when the project broke ground last fall. It continues to intentionally function as a staging area for the construction until fall 2019 when the project will be completed. Construction inside the building will continue throughout this school year, but in a limited capacity. With the high school being occupied for much of the day, work can only be done in areas that are segregated with physical barriers. Second shift work begins occe the building is cleared at the end of the day.
Infrastructure & safety
From the beginning, one of the primary purposes of the Legacy 2020 Capital Project was to make necessary improvements to infrastructure and safety, ultimately supporting the educational program at Queensbury. While the new main entrance with a more secure vestibule will be complete next fall, many other improvements have already been implemented for this school year:
- The replacement of 1963 vintage windows and exterior walls, resulting in a more energy efficient and comfortable building.
- A new ventilation system, improving air circulation in the school
- New air handlers, allowing better and more efficient heating and cooling
- Upgraded air ducts
- Drop-down visual barriers on the interior windows of classrooms for safety
- An upgraded and more integrated school surveillance system: video cameras give adults an ability to see multiple places in the building at once.
The Legacy 2020 Capital Project went through a lengthy planning process to reorganize and renovate the high school’s structure. Through community summits and forums that began in 2013 with hundreds of participants, a vision for the new high school was born and is being realized now.
“The community’s participation led to a very student-centered plan for the high school,” said Dr. Huntley. “All of the hours of planning by teachers, students and community members through forums and focus groups is resulting in this new educational facility. This is not a Board of Education project, or the administration’s project, but rather our project. Our community’s project.”
Seven new science labs are complete for this school year and being used each day by students. The new, movable furniture is directly tied to program delivery, allowing students to work collaboratively in groups and allowing teachers to shape their classrooms in a way that is conducive to specific lessons. Science Department Chair Marnie DeJohn chose to arrange her classroom with three peninsulas.
“Before, with the traditional desks, it was hard for me to get to each student. Now, especially during labs when I am observing students, I can stand in one spot and see everyone all at once. It’s a big enhancement for safety and productivity.”
DeJohn says teachers physically designed some of their lab spaces around the courses they teach. Teachers now have ample storage space for equipment and students have ample space to work and leave their labs up for several days. In addition, extended learning areas adjacent to some of the classrooms were designed so teachers can meet with students separately and still have an eye on the classroom.
“Having the spaces designed in such a way that students can have the time to work, a spot to work, and meet with the teacher individually will be a big difference,” said DeJohn.
Three more science labs are still under construction and will be complete by December.
Fine & Performing Arts
This fall, the Fine & Performing Arts wing of Queensbury High School has taken shape, one of three interdisciplinary instructional communities in the Legacy 2020 Capital Project design. For the first time ever, band, orchestra and chorus all have their own teaching and rehearsal space. Prior, chorus students were required to practice in the auditorium and on the stage.
“It was a huge, cavernous space,” said Choral Director Matthew Gaulin. “Acoustically, these new rooms are so much better for rehearsals.”
In addition to improved lighting and air circulation, Gaulin says the entire music department has a collegiate feel. Large groups can rehearse while small groups or individual students can practice in one of four new adjacent practice rooms.
“Prior to the project, students would come out of a study hall and want a place to practice, but wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” said Band Director David Margison. “Now they have a place.”
Art classrooms to art studios
Not only is it a new Fine & Performing Arts wing, but a new concept for teaching and learning. Each of the six art classrooms are connected with open lines of sight from room to room and there are multiple classes going on at once.
“There are 52 students in a space at one time, and for the first time ever, it works,” said Art Department Chair Heather Palmer.
Palmer says students are seeing the progression of courses that are available to them because of the proximity in which they are all working together. She says prior to the Legacy 2020 project, many art courses were intangible to students outside of a course description they read. Now, advanced classes are being modeled to the younger students, just by simply sharing one large cohesive space.
“It’s more mobile than ever,” said Palmer. “The students’ craftsmanship is enhanced by their exposure to the advanced classes and the work they are producing is at a higher level than what we’ve seen in the past.”
Each of the art rooms, which include 2-D & 3-D spaces as well as digital teaching labs have natural light and high ceilings conducive to a better learning environment.
“The adaptability of the studio space with the new furniture allows students to come in and have a space and place to work on their own,” said International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Drawing and Painting teacher Jennifer Brewer.
In addition, Brewer says students are now benefiting from having five teachers with five different specialities all accessible at once, and concepts that are shared between two classes can be taught at one time. Ultimately, Brewer says students’ academic experiences are being enhanced by the new art studio space.
“I am the teacher facilitating the class, but this space allows them to learn how to get the information they need to help them with specific projects they’re working on.”
“After teaching in the high school for the past 20 years, I could not be more excited that the vision that we have all longed for has happened and that teaching is being facilitated by the space,” added Palmer.
A new space for special education students enrolled in Career Pathways and Cooking Skills came to life this fall, complete with a kitchenette to teach life skills. Like other newly renovated spaces at the high school, the adjacent classroom comes equipped with flexible seating where students work on and learn about daily living skills.
“This room is home base for everything we do,” said Special Education teacher Bob Dean. “By the time this building project is done, our special education students will be integrated with the rest of the high school population.”
Dean, who teaches students ages 13 to 21, says the classroom was created specifically for students’ needs and provides versatility to combine different groups that come in to use it.
“Our classroom is a central unit of our school district and this space only enhances the programs we deliver.”
Mounds of stone and roughed-up roads give just a hint of the extensive construction now underway in the Legacy 2020 capital project at Queensbury High School. The school building itself, as well as much of the parking lots around it, will remain closed to the public throughout the summer as work ramps up while students are away.
“We worked with the general contractors pretty closely to develop a schedule that was good for us and worked for them as well. We beat the deadlines that they wanted to start by so they could start a little earlier,” said Director of Facilities and Operations Rob Chapman, who is overseeing the capital project.
Exterior Work to Improve Safety, Traffic Patterns
During summer 2018, contractors are grinding up old blacktop and reworking the layout of parking lots around the high school. This work will improve student safety and traffic flow, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas W. Huntley.
“The current traffic pattern mixes students, parents, visitors, faculty and buses at the same location. By separating student traffic from others, we are creating a much safer environment for everyone,” he said.
At the front of the school building, the left and right side of the parking lot traditionally used by students will be divided by a new, central plaza in order to separate student parking from parent and visitor traffic. The left-side lot will reopen to the public at the start of the school year, but the right-side lot will remain closed to the public through February while contractors use it as a staging and access point for interior construction.
A renovated road running between the east side of the school and nearby tennis courts will open to one-way traffic at the start of the school year, but with the installation of a town traffic light on Aviation Road in late fall, it will expand to a two-way traffic route. Once complete with a light, this new pattern will improve traffic flow during school arrival and dismissal times.
Additional road work is visible at the back of the school campus. Contractors are working to improve a confusing, high volume five-way intersection near the road to the Transportation Department building, the entrance to the bus loop and faculty parking lot of Queensbury Elementary School, and the bus exit and parking lot entrance of William H. Barton Intermediate School.
“The changes will improve safety at the intersection by providing a clearer, more defined traffic pattern,” said Huntley.
The work also will improve drainage of storm runoff that in the past has backed up and flooded the road.
Construction Picks Up in Summer
As busy as it is outside the high school, there is even more action on the inside.
By the end of summer vacation, Chapman expects to open the renovated fine and performing arts wing; new labs in the science, technology, engineering and math wing; and several renovated spaces in the new humanities wing.
By December, he expects to open the new physical education space at the back of the building and a renovated locker room for PE students that will replace the old large group instruction room.
“We had a lot of the furniture and classroom materials packed up and moved out before graduation. We need to get a lot of flooring and different kinds of materials out of the way, so we can do this without any interruptions,” he said.
HS a Hub of Activity in the Fall
In the fall, a major portion of the Legacy 2020 construction will kick off at the front and center of the high school building. This work includes the creation of a new centralized support services area, library/media center and Queensbury community room along the front of the building, and a secure vestibule at the main entrance to the high school.
This work is expected to continue at least through February 2019.
“We’re taking some of the roof off and putting new steel in the building. Really the hardest, most difficult and complicated portion of the project is right in the center of the building,” said Chapman.
While renovations continue at the current main entrance, a temporary entrance near the old library/media center will serve as the main gateway for high school visitors. This temporary entrance will include safety features such as a double-set of locked doors, a buzzer for admittance and a Badge Pass system for scanning IDs.
Queensbury families and staff will receive more information about changes to traffic patterns and high school building access at the start of the new school year.
Inside the walls of Queensbury High School, contractors are busy rolling out the first phase of a two-year construction plan for the Legacy 2020 capital project. Much of the first phase of construction has focused on fine arts spaces at the front of the school building and STEM spaces at the back.
“We’ve done our tearing apart. We’re taking down the walls that are not going to be there when we’re done and reworking new walls that will be there,” said Director of Facilities and Operations Rob Chapman.
Contractors are pouring concrete floors and completing metal framing, piping, duct work and power conduits in the current focus areas. The district also is in the process of securing supplies for all phases of the capital project. Materials are ordered during the first phase of construction so they are ready for delivery at the start of each new construction phase.
“Everything is going as planned right now except for some deliveries of windows,” said Chapman.
Signs of construction are visible at the front of the high school, along a row of windows that look in on the future home of a studio-style fine arts suite. The space once consisted of old, segmented foreign language classrooms. Art classes are expected to occupy the newly renovated, more flexible space by early May. Then renovation work will transition to the current, outdated art classrooms.
At the back of the building, contractors expect to lay foundations for a new lab space and gym station in March. Progress in these areas will continue throughout the spring, with a focus on minimizing the disruption for students and staff. Then in the summer, work will intensify as contractors occupy the entire building and begin redesigning the front parking lot while students are away.
Queensbury Union Free School District has scheduled an official groundbreaking ceremony for Thursday, Nov. 16, at 10 a.m. on the field between the Queensbury High School building and stadium.
On Friday, Nov. 10, contractors will wall off portions of school hallways in an area that will become part of the Fine and Performing Arts Wing, one of three new interdisciplinary instructional communities. Located on the front, southeast side of the high school building, it eventually will house digital graphics, studio art and pottery in a space that allows for greater collaboration among faculty and students.
The district awarded prime contract bids for the Legacy 2020 capital project during the Queensbury Board of Education workshop in October. Soon after, fences, site markers and heavy vehicles appeared at the back of Queensbury High School to secure construction areas for a new lab space and gym station.
Earlier in fall 2017, Queensbury crews installed six temporary classrooms inside the wood gym to provide flexible instruction space throughout the construction process. Initially, the wood gym is housing foreign language classes. Crews have also relocated furniture and instructional materials from classrooms affected by the early stages of construction.
Over the summer, the large group instruction room at the back of the high school was modified for use by the orchestra and MIDI music lab. Those classrooms were relocated to accomodate renovations that will create a fine and performing arts wing, one of three interdisciplinary instructional communities in the capital project design.