Signs at the main entrance to the last week asked visitors and students to forgive the building’s appearance during renovations. However, aside from a hallway where lockers were temporarily replaced with cardboard boxes, there were few disruptions for returning students.
“I would say we’re about 95 percent complete,” said Head of School Mark Fader.
The work updates the wing of the school built in 1954, when it moved to the outskirts of the campus. Fader said the three-phase project was done concurrently over the summer to improve the classrooms, hallways, and bathrooms.
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Fader said the Williams School has a buildings and grounds committee which looks at whether the structure is conducive to learning. The work included asbestos removal, allowing the space to be opened up. The school also added improved lighting; new lockers, floors, and cubbies; improved water fountains allowing students to fill up water bottles; and MimoTeach smart boards to replace white boards in the classrooms.
Eliza Smith, a 2006 alumnus and math teacher, used one of these smart boards during a morning lesson on Thursday. The device allows her to write on the board from different areas in the room and have students interact with the equations. The lessons are also electronically stored and can be sent to students who are absent.
The renovation also spruced up the main entrance to the school, putting a video welcome screen next to the main office and replacing the floor. The iconic blue bench, originally the place where troublemakers were sent to await a visit with the head of school, remains.
“Alumni call me all the time to make sure we still have a blue bench,” said Fader.
Williams School has gone through a number of additions and improvements over the past two decades. An English wing and performing arts center were added in the 1990s. In 2001, the school installed a science wing of classrooms and laboratories. In 2008, the cafeteria was converted into the Weissman Student Center; though it still functions as a cafeteria, it is now a multipurpose space with increased natural light from expanded windows. Since 2000, these efforts have increased the school's square footage by 50 percent.
Fader said the $500,000 restoration of the 1954 wing was done in part to align the appearance and quality of the original building with the additions. He said he has already seen an impact on foot traffic, light, and noise levels in the hallway.
“We really feel we’re at a point now where we’re really satisfied with all of our classrooms and all of our teaching spaces,” he said.