New school, new priorities

Viv Collins comments on the implications of Black Rock’s new tech.

For most students, the years spent in middle school are a developmental period of growth between elementary school and high school. Students learn valuable lessons in time management, experience more difficult classes, and begin to adapt to a new independent schedule. But for LMSD, the addition of Black Rock Middle School (BRMS) has created a rift between the educations of all three middle schools in the district. BRMS was built with state of the art facilities. The school is a brand new building packed with modern technology, a completely different classroom model, and amenities such as movable furniture. Since it has been built, all three middle schools have adapted a new, content-based curriculum and learning structure. When I was fortunate enough to tour the new building, it was clear to me that Bala Cynwyd Middle School (BCMS) and Welsh Valley Middle School (WVMS), however, are not equipped to keep up with these changes. 

The conditions of a classroom are extremely important to the success of a student. Almost every piece of furniture in BRMS is moveable, allowing for versatile classroom designs. Even bookcases and lounge chairs can be repositioned to increase student productivity. At BCMS and WVMS, there is not only a lack of mobile furniture, but also a lack of space for the furniture to rest. Students attend classes in rooms almost identical to those of LM, not rooms that resemble those of Google Headquarters. At BRMS, there are also specialized rooms called “nests” that are designed to be isolated learning areas for individual students or collaborative work. Rooms like this can be extremely beneficial to students’ learning capabilities and group project skills, but do not exist at the other two middle schools. Additionally, located in the center of BRMS is what administrators have dubbed the “heart,” an open atrium filled with more mobile furniture and technology charging stations. This area not only creates a helpful space for students, but helps foster a better social community.

The new curriculum for middle schoolers fits the new mold of BRMS, but will not work at BCMS and WVMS. The curriculum changes include a more content based style of learning in which the subjects students learn build off of one another. For example, if a student is learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion, they will discuss it in science class, learn the equations in math class, and design an experiment in technology education. While this new model of education will significantly improve student learning, I do not think it can be replicated similarly between the schools. This system works so well at BRMS because it is exactly what the school was designed for. BCMS and WVMS do not share these same advanced classrooms nor the resources to accommodate the curriculum updates. Along with the new curriculum, there is a completely different schedule. Once again, this schedule fits the mold of BRMS, but, having attended BCMS myself, I can safely say that the staggered dismissal times and lack of bells will be detrimental to hallway travel at BCMS and WVMS. 

Only one group of students in the district will experience the benefits of BRMS in correspondence with the recent changes of learning. This results in only a third of the high school’s populations having a different mindset when it comes to education, putting all other students at a disadvantage. LMSD would have been better off allocating the 90 million spent on BRMS to create positive change throughout the entire district. Even if building a new middle school was inevitable, it is unfair for LMSD to build a brand new, state of the art facility that only some middle school students will be able to experience. Instead of pouring all of their funds into one school, each middle school should have been equally updated, resulting in better educated and adjusted students across the district.

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