How the New STEM Building Will Affect DA

PHOTO BY ALEX HOGUE ‘21

PHOTO BY ALEX HOGUE ‘21

Written by Matthew Schwartz ‘21

The Durham Academy campus is undergoing radical changes with the new STEM and Humanities Center. Teachers are excited about the change, while students are unsure about the effect of this transformation.

The STEM wing has been in operation this school year, while the Humanities wing and the Commons area are expected to be completed in spring 2019. According to the DA Campus Plan, the goal of the building is to provide state-of-the-art equipment along with more learning spaces and collaboration between teachers and students in general.

Most teachers agree that the campus changes will benefit the school. Upper School history teacher Paula Marr, though she is not expecting the history department to see much change, is looking forward to seeing how the school environment will shift with the addition of the commons area and the six study rooms in the new building.

Photo by Alex Hogue ‘21

Photo by Alex Hogue ‘21

Upper School math teacher Robin McCain added that “the real change was three years ago” for math teachers when they started sharing rooms in the Hock Center building. She said that her department, which moved into the STEM wing this year, has seen a similar transition to when they moved to Hock a few years ago.

She also notes that she is excited to be in the same building as the science department, which is a change from past years.

Upper School Spanish teacher Jennifer Garci and the foreign language department moved into the Hock Center in November. The foreign language teachers are sharing classrooms with one main office in the renovated Hock Center. Ms. Garci is teaching in a new classroom and says the “double-decker” building — the foreign language department’s previous home, which will be torn down this summer — “does not meet the needs of our teaching as well [as Hock will],” largely because of the double-decker building’s age.

Not every teacher has such positive feelings on the new building though. Upper School English teacher Jordan Adair feels that there are significant downsides to the campus change. “[The double-decker] has tremendous character,” he said, and he worries how teachers will be affected by leaving it. Almost every teacher is sharing classrooms with others, and he worries this will reduce teachers’ ability to meet with students privately. Mr. Adair has developed and decorated his room with many books and posters, and he will not be able to do that in the new building without his own room.  

Most students are generally unsure how the new building will affect DA. Some students have complaints about the STEM wing, like that it is too cold downstairs and hot upstairs, but a few have expressed strong opinions on the more significant effects, positive or negative.

PHOTO BY ALEX HOGUE ‘21

PHOTO BY ALEX HOGUE ‘21

Sophomore Nathaniel Turner understood the school’s reasoning for the new building, but he also recognizes that it will be different to have interior hallways. “It’s refreshing to be able to get outside after each class,” he said, expressing concern that benefit of the outdoor campus will be diminished.

For senior Haley Leversedge, the difference between the old science rooms and the new STEM building is night and day.

“There’s lots of open board space for teachers and the labs are better designed for the projects we do,” she explained, “because when our lab space was combined with the classroom in Chemistry last year it got really confusing. I do hear a lot of noises in Mr. Parry’s room, but [the building] is amazing.”

Senior Emily Holmes is most worried about fire safety in the new building due to the size of the doors. “But day-to-day,” she said, “it just makes me late to class.”

When the STEM and Humanities building is complete, it will include 22 classrooms and a large commons area, in addition to three department faculty offices. Most teachers will have their classes in the new building, but Ms. Garci wants to remind everyone, “Make sure you come visit us in the foreign language department!”