The Clyde F. Brown Elementary School was originally constructed over sixty years ago. Much in education has changed since that time, a time when students sat quietly in rows, students with special needs were not served in public settings, and there was little research on how students learn best.
Cognitive research has enabled schools to make vast improvements in how we teach students with a huge increase in % of students graduating at high levels of educational attainment as a consequence, especially in Massachusetts. As one of the higher performing school districts in Massachusetts, the Millis Public School district has, for the past decade, encouraged active project and inquiry-based learning focused on a strong foundation in basic skills but also promoting the higher level “21st century skills” that are needed for success in a global economy and as a responsible citizen. Moreover, we personalize instruction to a much greater degree than in the past and are severely constrained by the facilities that Millis students attend. The Clyde Brown Elementary is smaller than the MSBA gross square footage allowances for new school construction in Massachusetts resulting in significant scheduling issues and overcrowding. This limits our ability to provide top quality education to the families in Millis. The classrooms are undersized (780 sq. ft. vs. the recommended 900-1,000 sq. ft.) and thus cannot accommodate the active hands-on learning that is most effective. For example, the engineering design process is taught at every grade level and students design projects and products to solve problems from the literature they are reading. There is little room for creating prototypes or for the storage of materials used.
In 2001, due to overcrowding at Clyde Brown, the fifth grade was moved to the Middle School which is upstairs in the High School building and shares all common areas such as gymnasium, cafeteria, library and auditorium with the High School. It is not optimal to have ten year olds on the same buses and sharing facilities with 18 year olds. It would be developmentally appropriate and would solve the overcrowding that is now at the Middle/High School if the fifth grade were to move back to the elementary setting. The educational programming that Gr. 5 students access as part of the MS/HS could continue even if housed at Clyde Brown.
A three classroom modular has been in place for over 10 years and houses the Extended Day program that had been previously housed in the elementary building.
Need for Small Group Instructional Spaces
There is very little appropriate space for students with special needs for instruction, physical, speech or occupational therapies or counseling, or for those students who simply benefit from small group instruction to address specific needs. The Library cubicles created with temporary dividers have been used for this. Currently, many students who receive supplementary educational services access this instruction within small groups that concurrently share space within the library; while not optimal instructionally, this is the most appropriate spot for small group instruction, as there is no other available space within the building.The district would be able to provide more programming in district to meet the needs of students with special needs if we had more room. This would save on the expensive funding of tuitions for out of district programs. During state-wide MCAS testing, some administrators must vacate their offices so that students who need quiet settings (as required in their IEPs) can take the test in private.
Lack of Appropriate Instructional Spaces
In addition to the major facilities problems and aging systems in the building, the type of instruction that now occurs is impacted by a lack of project rooms, room for technology integration and storage and storage space for instructional materials and Science equipment. There is no room to have “Project Pods” within classrooms so that students can work in groups to create using technology and the one computer lab is booked for the entire day with classes so that teachers cannot “sign up” to bring classes there.
The kiln is in the Art room itself rather than a separate space which constrains when it can be used. The Music room is used for several classes, including Spanish and Music instruction must sometimes take place on the stage.
Additionally, Physical Education classes are limited by the one small gymnasium space that must be shared at times between two concurrent classes which is accomplished by a room divider being pulled across the gym but limits the amount of room in which students can be active.
Music classes and Spanish FLES language classes access the same space for whole group instruction; as stated previously, Music classes must use space either in the Cafeteria or on the stage in the Cafeteria for whole-group instruction, and classes must be planned for Spanish FLES language so that classes either take place in classrooms (in a “teacher on a cart” model), or in the Music room when classes are not scheduled – this lack of space severely constrains the instructional options for teachers and, ultimately, students are not able to optimize learning
Lack of Media Center
The CFB Library houses several computers for student and teacher use and is sub-divided with temporary cubicle panels to provide for small group instructional spaces but this decreases the Library and computer space by over 40%. As the space is used for supplementary instruction for large time blocks during the school day, students are not able to access the Library as a Media Center for research and project-based learning background building and teachers must be content to schedule this access to learning through a “sign up” schedule process. Storage rooms have had to be converted to offices or small group instructional spaces even though they have no natural light or good ventilation.
Lack of Storage Space
There is virtually no storage room at all except for one closet in the Cafeteria. Records storage for both CFB and Pupil Personnel Services utilize this space, and currently student records co-exist alongside carts of folding chairs, extra furniture and supplementary curriculum materials. Finding space for teachers to store grade-wide curriculum materials used in Science and Engineering projects and other project-based units is extremely difficult, and many teachers choose to either bring materials home for storage or find space in their already overcrowded classrooms for these important learning materials.
Teachers must store materials up high on shelves in their rooms, a safety concern for both teachers and students. Students’ coats, boots and backpacks are in classroom areas since there are no student lockers for grades 1 through 4.
Lack of Meeting Space and Teacher Preparation Spaces
Spaces that had been teacher offices for instructional planning or meetings have all been converted to multi-purpose instructional spaces. Many of the specialists and instructional tutors have no space for a desk or to store their materials. There is only one small conference room in which meetings with parents for IEPs (Special Education Individual Education Plans) or other purposes can occur. The table can accommodate 6-8 people only. For groups of 15-20 people, the Library must be shut down or meetings squeezed before or after lunch schedules in the cafeteria.
Lack of Performance Space
The Clyde Brown Elementary has no Auditorium or an adequate stage for performance arts. Performances must be scheduled around either the availability of the Cafeteria of the Gym; scheduled performances can sometimes displace the Phys Ed classes, forcing teachers to conduct classes in general classrooms during inclement weather.
Lack of Adequate Bathrooms
There are not enough adult bathrooms and students’ bathrooms are old and in need of repair and modernization . Currently, almost 500 students share the same bathrooms between classrooms, the Cafeteria and Gym, and a staff of about 60 adults must share 3 designated bathrooms.
Lack of Security and Communication Systems
A lack of good intercom and having no phone systems in classrooms impacts ability to communicate for instructional or safety reasons. Front entrance and other doors need to have better security equipment. Currently staff at CFB utilize walkie talkies to facilitate communication in areas that lack intercoms. The front entrance to the school lacks an appropriate foyer in which to welcome and screen visitors before they enter the building proper. Additionally, the doors have outlived their useful life – over the years, shrinking and swelling of the door frames has resulted in doors that need quite frequent adjustment to close properly and safely secure the building.
Due to space constraints with the existing cafeteria and corresponding bathrooms, CFB schedules five separate lunches that begin at 11:10 and extend until 1:20. Space constraints in this arena significantly impact the scheduling of academic intervention blocks, Unified Arts classes, and time best spent on learning.
Need for Early Childhood Program Space
Research has proven the benefit of early childhood education and there is nationwide momentum for providing universal pre-school and full-day kindergarten programs for all children. Millis would be able to provide more early childhood programming with additional classroom space. Current Kindergarten classrooms are 780 sq. ft. instead of the MSBA recommended 1,200 sq. ft. per 18 students. (Kindergarten classes are often over 21-22 students in Millis.) This limits how active students can be in classrooms and students must crowd together on the “meeting rug” for direct whole group instruction.
Need for Space for Support Services for Families
We currently have no room for consultation space or for resources to support parents of children attending the Millis Public Schools. Currently alternate spaces, like converted supply closets, storage spaces, or other areas like cubicles in the library serve this purpose and because the meetings take place in more public areas they are not entirely in keeping with appropriate FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)requirements.
Technology Network Infrastructure
Internet access and the network infrastructure are inadequate for the computer devices currently employed and hamper students’ research and projects as well as staff productivity. Servers and routing equipment are in a teacher’s office that must sometimes be used for small group instruction. The room becomes hot and is noisy. The Internet connection goes through the Middle/High School building, thus constraining connectivity. There is only one computer drop per classroom and wireless connectivity is spotty. Classroom wings currently share access to a general printer, which can interrupt student learning on many levels.
Need for Cohesive and Pleasant Physical Environment
There has been much research on how students need for natural light and adequate temperature control and ventilation, and room to move around in order learn optimally. The dark interior and aging conditions impact students. A recent space needs study completed by an external consulting firm, Tetra Tech, also pointed to the lack of cohesion to the Clyde Brown building with a poor flow to and from classrooms to common areas and a lack of areas that can be used to unify teachers and students for celebrations or performances.
Need for Safe Access
Parking is inadequate and traffic flow is hazardous. A 2004 study and the Tetra Tech study both point out the inadequacy and danger of the current design.