By Kevin Coughlin
The state education department’s new chief innovation officer toured the new wing at Morristown High School on Monday and pronounced it … innovative.
“It’s flexible. It changes based on the needs of a particular day or lesson or activity,” marveled Joshua Koen, holding up the wing as an example worth emulating.
School designs, by and large, have advanced little over the last century, he said. “Our field is one of the most traditional that you will find.”
Koen spoke in a 75-seat “learning center” that is a key feature of the $13 million, 24,000-square-foot expansion, which opened this month–under budget, according to school officials –after just 15 months of construction.
Work pods enable small groups to link their district-issued Chromebooks to flat screens to collaborate on projects. A retractable wall opens the room for large gatherings, such as Monday’s school board meeting.
The three-floor wing includes spacious classrooms with wall-mounted projectors, and an advanced design- and manufacturing center with digital machines that can print or sculpt large 3-D objects for theatrical props and other uses.
Everything has gone pretty smoothly in the facility since classes started on Sept. 6, 2016, said Principal Mark Manning.
“The kids are very flattered by what we’ve been able to provide for them,” he said.
Slideshow: A tour of the new MHS wing, just before it opened
In a troubled world, the learning center will provide a refuge, fostering “human relationships [and] mutual admiration,” said Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast.
The design center is meant to give students high-tech vocational skills.
Pendergrast said the expansion continues the progressive vision of the late Stephen B. Wiley, a Morristown High alumnus who led the battle to create a regional district back in the 1970s. The superintendent quoted Wiley, who died last year:
“Our schools teach the ABC’s with distinction, but young people in Morristown High and the grade schools also learn the D’s, E’s and F’s. By association and experience, they learn about democracy and diversity, about equal opportunity and ethnic strengths, about freedom and fraternity, about the whole alphabet of America.”