The New Space by Head of School Bob Henderson
When I arrived at Nobles in the fall of 2000, one of the first institutional mantras I encountered was that “program drives development.” At that time in the school’s history the Morrison Athletic Center (the MAC) was almost complete, and it formally opened in the winter of that school year. Over the previous decade, Nobles, under Dick Baker’s inspired leadership, had provided new facilities for science, the middle school and visual arts. The Shattuck Schoolhouse also had been completely renovated. Every one of those projects was guided by the above mantra; excellence and burgeoning needs necessitated reconceiving and reconstructing facilities. In each instance, driven by the demands of program, appeal was made to the extended Nobles community and the outcome was a transformed campus, far better suited to the support of students and teachers and their educational objectives. I took this lesson to heart, and program has continued to drive development through the years of my headship.
The most recent manifestation of this is the addition to the Arts Center that has opened as we began the second semester of this school year. The centerpiece of that new facility is the 3,000 square foot state-of-the-art dance studio. Interest in dance has skyrocketed over the last several years, from a handful of participants to over 30 per season (and in some seasons, well more than that). This is a credit to dance teacher Jillian Grunnah, but more broadly it is due to the hunger for arts instruction and opportunities that characterizes the Nobles student body.
High quality arts education is a core commitment of this school. While all students will not be equally skilled in the arts (as is true with every area of student endeavor), all students do need exposure to the creative stimulation of both the visual and performing arts. This is, we believe, critical to their intellectual and personal development. And occasionally students develop a passion and commitment in an area (whether artistic, academic, athletic,or in fields like service or travel) that would not otherwise have emerged without such exposure. Dance is a natural and important area for growth in our performing arts program. Consequently, dance is the latest realm, inspired by a dynamic teacher, where interest in and commitment to the arts at Nobles has been fostered.
What is also important to note about the dance project, however, is that the trustees seized an opportunity to address several other needs within the scope of this undertaking. Upstairs, above the dance studio, we have constructed two new classrooms. In fact, I think the faculty will regard these classrooms as the best and most comfortable in the school.
We have included substantial increases in office space, relieving the crush in some existing faculty office areas. In particular, most of the modern language department will migrate up there, leaving room for the science department to spread out more appropriately in Baker.
The Achieve program office will move from the admissions area to new space, providing both Achieve and admission with what they need.
Perhaps most significantly, the emerging EXCEL program (Experiential and Community Engaged Learning) will have a home in the new building, and both the travel and community service programs will move there.
Finally, the music program has been able to reorganize itself a bit around the new square footage, more appropriately allocating space to large ensembles and technological instruction. It has been exciting over the last few weeks, watching the final phases ofthe project come together. It looks spectacular, and I hope you will take a moment when next on campus to walk through.
The space opened, as planned, on January 6. There will be details to address, with final punch list items lingering throughout the month. Moving in will continue through the first weeks of the semester, bringing with it a certain amount of disorder. And everyone will have to get used to new campus geography and frames of reference.
With all that said, however, this new chapter will bring great opportunities and I am thrilled to witness that evolution. The construction fences will shortly come down, we will get critical parking areas back for school use, and the campus aesthetic will be enhanced by the new architecture. All of this has been accomplished well within the budget parameters we established, with the assistance of generous friends of the school who understood and helped to address our critical needs. Program drives development, and the profound beneficiaries are the students and faculty of the school.