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The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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School Board enthusiastically approves new media arts center and classrooms

The Palo Alto School Board said Tuesday night that it aims to begin construction on the proposed media arts and combined math and social studies buildings in spring 2011.

Verde and Voice adviser Paul Kandell and Viking adviser Ellen Austin presented a Keynote of the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of the new media arts center before the school board vote.

The new building will be home to all six of the school’s journalism publications, photography and video production, and some English classes, serving approximately 770 students. The structure will replace the group of portables currently located behind the English building.

According to Austin, student and staff focus groups consulted with local journalism professionals to design the media arts center for maximum collaboration between publications.

“So much of what is needed for 21st century life involves multiplatform publishing,” Austin said.

The most controversial aspect of the conceptual design is the two-story central atrium in the media arts building. Several school board members, including Barbara Klausner and Camille Townsend, voiced concerns in the past over the distractions and complications posed by such a large open space.

However, Klausner and Townsend said Kandell’s and Austin’s presentation addressed their concerns.

“I’ve got all my questions answered about the media center,” Townsend said. “You guys [Kandell and Austin] were really just terrific.”

School Board President Barb Mitchell echoed Townsend’s praise.

“You guys [the Paly teachers who presented the plans] have done a fantastic job,” Mitchell said. “Your wisdom and ambition just stand out in a big way.”

Principal Jacqueline McEvoy supports the inclusion of an atrium because of its potential use as a mid-sized meeting space.

“We need a meeting space that can seat 150 [the number of Paly faculty and staff members],” McEvoy said. “Currently, we have the ERC and SSRC and the Haymarket, but nothing in between.”

Construction on the new buildings will begin in spring 2011, but builders will move groups of interim portables to two new locations during summer 2010.

One group of six portables will be situated on the quad between the current math and science buildings and another group of three will be placed between the gym and the science building.

Social studies will occupy the ground floor and math will be located on the second. According to McEvoy, the math and social studies departments based this decision upon the tendency of social studies teachers to use outdoor space more frequently in lessons.

Social studies teacher Eric Bloom said he appreciates the location of staff offices in the proposed building.

“Currently, our offices are underutilized,” Bloom said. The placement of social studies offices inside the new building will eliminate the current inconvenience for social studies buildings of crossing the courtyard between the 300 building and the library.

McEvoy said that she has enjoyed working with teachers on the designs for the new buildings.

“I’ve really learned so much about individual teaching styles,” McEvoy said. “We’re not just designing classrooms, we’re creating new learning environments.”

At the meeting, Paly parent Nancy Biffar said that although she was not planning to address the council, she wanted to voice her support and appreciation for the new media center.

“I represent a lot of the parental passion [for this project],” Biffar said. “I’ve never been so proud of this community.”

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