Campus Buildings Get Welcome Renovations

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Williston embarked on a multitude of campus renovations this past summer.

Beginning at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, Williston had already begun renovations of the science center, Scott Hall, soon to be followed in July and August by a renovation of Birch Dining Commons and the installation of air conditioning in the Chapel.

The renovations come with questions among the student body about when more so-called pressing renovations are to take place, like the installation of air conditioning in Memorial Hall, or a renovation of John Wright, Williston’s second oldest active dorm, which first began housing students after being built in 1964, according to a 2014 article of The Willistonian.

Among the whirlwind of returning to school and the novelty of the new academic year, students have been fairly straightforward with their feelings of the new changes on campus, specifically the more noticeable ones like the renovation of Birch Dining Commons and Scott Hall.

Caledonia McKeon, a boarding student form Northfield, Mass., thinks the renovation to Scott Hall was unnecessary.

“I don’t think we should have spent however much we did to rebuild a science center that worked perfectly fine,” she told The Willistonian. “Sure, it was pretty ugly, but it worked, and that’s what mattered.”

Other students, like Zah Ewen, an 11th grade boarder from Baldwin, N.Y, have more specific reasons for their dislike of the new science center.

“I miss that big old whiteboard,” Zah said. “My science teacher struggles with the new technology, she’s even said so herself. I know it’s not her fault, but it still slows class down. Rather than a traditional whiteboard, classrooms in the new science center have large flat screen televisions mounted on the wall.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum are those like Abby Muscato, an 11th grade boarder from Arlington, Virginia, who appreciates the new tech, as well as the sterile look.

“It was a much needed upgrade following the roof incident of last year, and it creates a more modern and inviting space,” she said. “Although I can see why people say it doesn’t match with the rest of campus.”

Head of School Robert Hill is extremely pleased with how the designs for Scott Hall came to life, considering that the plans had been in the works for a little over two years.

“I am astounded at how well it turned out. Although the building looks the same on the outside, which is a bit of the 1950’s modern style, the inside classrooms are now 2022,” he said. “They are truly state of the art. As cliché as that may sound, it’s true.”

Mr. Hill also emphasizes the science faculty’s appreciation of the new space.

“I’ve talked to a number of the faculty who teach in there, and they are all amazed by the transformation, and very excited to teach in the new facility,” he said.

The renovation of Scott Hall was made possible by a bond, an alternative way of gaining appropriate finances other than fundraising. The renovation of Scott Hall, along with the addition of a proper HVAC system in the chapel, is all a part of Williston’s plan to systematically renovate all academic buildings.

“It hadn’t been renovated in decades,” he said. “It was time for a change.”

The other major renovation that took place this summer is the changes and facelift to the dining hall, which included painting the wooden paneling a bright white, and replacing the rectangular tables with larger circle tables, a change that many students say makes it hard to get around the dining hall.

The facelift in the dining hall was funded purely by philanthropy and donations by past and current parents of the school. The donations that were made to the school specifically detailed the renovation of the new dining hall.

Hill highlighted his hopes for the next few years, detailing plans of a new academic center built in between Reed Campus Center and the Admissions building , on the green area near the front of the quad loop. The plan is to construct a new building in that space in order to “finish” the quad as the academic center of campus.

“That renovation would allow us to take this building [Schoolhouse] and renovate it to be the next in the sequence,” Hill said. In that planned renovation, the Schoolhouse would be home to only one academic department rather than two.

Hill believes a new academic building is the right move to further develop the potential and outreach of the school. This mission of his falls in line with his continued efforts to not only make changes to benefit the physicals appearance of the school, but those that benefit the student body as a whole.

“I believe that spaces matter, and that you need to feel comfortable in a classroom in order to thrive in that environment,” Hill said.