The furniture is being moved in and a $30 million addition to Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School will be ready for students in the fall.
B-CC administrators gave a preview tour of the space—which includes 34 new teaching areas and collaborative workspaces in an 88,000-square foot wing—on Friday morning.
Gone will be the eight portable classrooms wedged on to the school property. In will be flexible furniture, meaning no more old-school desk-chair combos and more features like bar-height desks or “soft seating” including arm chairs and couches.
The building constructed in 1934 is squeezed onto the county’s smallest high school campus and is designed to accommodate 1,683 students. However, 2,140 students are enrolled for the coming school year.
The new addition features more breathing room and flexibility, said Principal Donna Redmond Jones, who led Friday’s tour.
There are “collaboration spaces” with tables, chairs, couches and white boards sprinkled throughout the hallways, allowing students to gather outside of classrooms.
“There’s going to be major competition” for the seating, Jones said. “Everyone is going to want to sit out here.”
Jones said the hope is that creative work spaces will improve student experiences and learning outcomes. “Students really learn when they are able to have choices,” she said.
The new addition also includes offices for the International Baccalaureate program and space that the school can grow into in the future, if more administrators are needed.
The addition also includes new biology labs that have been outfitted with ovens, allowing flexibility for possibility of offering culinary arts courses and a large meeting room that could be used to prevent staff meetings and other events from taking over the school auditorium and disrupting drama courses and other student activities.
The addition will allow for new courses to be offered. A new digital art classroom is outfitted with bright orange chairs and will already be filled by three classes of students in the fall. A second ceramics studio is included in the addition, meaning the school may no longer have to restrict enrollment for underclassmen. And the “crown jewel” of the new addition is a sparkling, window-walled dance studio, where students will take courses including “Dance as a Fine Art” and yoga, which is in high demand, Jones said.
Where there used to be ground-level tennis courts, there will now be six elevated courts on top of a new covered parking area with more than 100 spaces. The coveted spots will most likely be reserved for teachers, Jones said. The creation of the large concrete structure may be one of the more surprising changes when students return in September.
“When students left, there was nothing here. And now you have this significant structure,” she said.
Ken Thompson, who is overseeing the construction for contractor Hess Construction, assured that a 12-foot-high concrete-and-fencing barrier should keep errant balls from going over the top of the tennis facility to the ground below.
“If you’re hitting it past that wall, you either need to take more lessons, or you’re doing it on purpose,” Thompson said. “…It’s a big space. You could play football up here.”
Jones said school staff hopes are that the addition will be ready for move-in on Aug. 20. Teachers return Aug. 27, with students back the following week.
But construction will still be underway.
Other site work—including a new sports stadium complex—will be complete in May 2019.
The school is projected to be at its new capacity of just over 2,400 students in 2022.