Last November, Mountain Lakes voters approved a major referendum for renovations to all three schools in the Mountain Lakes School District. Construction will begin later this year and take several years to complete. Our high school will see many physical improvements and operational changes, among them a new wing with twelve brand new classrooms and a new cafeteria that will allow for a completely different bell schedule. I recently sat down with our principal, Mr. Davies, to discuss these exciting changes and how they will impact students.
Mr. Davies explained that there will be two phases to the project. The first phase will comprise building the new wing in front of the current math classrooms. Small group instructional spaces will enhance the more traditional classroom format.
When asked about what opportunities new classrooms will provide for students, Mr. Davies explained, “Mr. White has a great program of drafting and design, and what we want to do is we want to build off of that… Down the road, with the addition, we would like to offer, say, a robotics elective. So not just a club, but an elective…One thing that Mountain Lakes High School is lacking right now is some business courses.”
Mr. Davies also said that there will be a new audio and visual lab “which would really enhance the world languages… Many schools have a TV production course. We could offer that in the future. It could also allow our current courses and our teachers to utilize this visual or audio lab to enhance the types of projects that they’re doing with students in the classroom.”
The other aspect of phase one will be upgrading the main office. “There will be a whole new security entrance in the front of the building. The whole entryway to the front of the high school will be changed,” Mr. Davies said. Until the construction is over, the school will keep the TCU trailers.
The next phase of the referendum will include renovations to the cafeteria and the auditorium, thus allowing for a new scheduling system. Mr. Davies commented that, in his view, the most exciting aspect of the referendum will be these changes to the daily schedule. “What we would do is we would create what’s called a rotating drop schedule.”
In a rotating drop schedule, classes rotate in the morning and afternoon, surrounding a block lunch that everyone attends. Each day, one of the morning periods (1, 2, 3, or 4) would drop out, and one of the afternoon periods (5, 6, 7, or 8) would drop out. “On any given school day, you’re only meeting with six classes…. Right now, you’re typically meeting with eight… [That] increases the length of the class periods a little bit, so we’re looking at about a 55 minute class period… We do have to wait [for the block schedule to be implemented]… until September of 2019.”
Mr. Davies feels that the new bell schedule will create a new atmosphere for students. “To have a block lunch is so essential to club meetings and extra help with teachers [because] everyone will be off at the same time.” Students will be able to eat lunch, meet with teachers, and attend club meetings all during the common lunch period. He also mentioned that the pace of the school day will change. Teachers will be able to “get more in-depth with material. And you have more sense of learning happening because you can take the time to recognize [it].”
When asked about the planned auditorium renovations, the principal observed that with its growing arts program, Mountain Lakes High School needs an improved facility. In a recent choir concert, Mr. Davies noted that, while the students sounded great, the sound was trapped above the stage. “In an ideal situation, you want your voices to project out… A sound shell will enable the sound to be projected out onto the audience.”
With new classrooms, curricular offerings, a new and improved cafeteria, and an upgraded bell schedule, Mountain Lakes students and teachers have a lot to look forward to. Clearly, once the work is done, Mountain Lakes High School will be better than ever.
For a visual map of the new plans for MLHS- click here