Inside a small room at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, recent graduate Greg Allan manipulated walls and textures in a three-dimensional modeling program on one of the computers in the lab, occasionally looking at a simple sheet of copy paper with partial blueprints on it. The walls and designs he created weren’t some abstract rendering–they were a visualization of what the charter school would look like after its two new science labs were added.
Groundbreaking for the new wing, which will be attached to what is now the middle school corridor, took place Tuesday morning. Construction on the building itself will be completed before school starts again in September, although the next year will be devoted to purchasing and moving new equipment, connecting electricity, and making the spaces science-ready (a chemical shower, gas jets, and beaker heaters, to name a few improvements).
Charter school director of development Paul Karasik said the official opening of the new labs will be in fall of 2015. There is still an additional $300,000 to raise to fully fund the project. $200,000 in funding has already arrived in the form of a grant the school received this spring from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.For science teachers Louis Hall and Jane Paquet, the new addition can’t open soon enough.
“It’s going to be fabulous,” Ms. Paquet said. “Especially with regard to what you can do with physics and chemistry. We’ve been strong in biology, and [that program] is going to be stronger.”
“The space and capability, the flexibility offered--we’re working out of rooms that are just underequipped,” Mr. Hall said. The new labs would allow for more hands-on science, he said, as opposed to focusing on theoretical work.
The current science lab is a well-lit room with several low lab tables inside. Pairs of green lab goggles are on one table, and Ms. Paquet’s library of science books fill a bookshelf from top to bottom with no wasted space. There’s no cupboard of equipment for older students, only for those in the lower school.
“The teachers have done a great job on the...science and experiments with the resources we have,” Greg Allan said. In his spare time, he said, he’s an inventor (at graduation the lower school presented him with a lab coat), and is more than familiar with the resources available.
“Hopefully in this new lab we can do more,” he said.
“We’ve got kids who are really science-oriented,” Ms. Paquet said. This year, she worked with rising junior Astrid Tilton on a chemistry-heavy portfolio, as Astrid learned to create cyanotypes, a type of photographic print.
The new addition is modular, built from prefabricated construction frames in a post-and-beam style similar to that in the main school building. The labs will be on the current site of the school basketball court, meaning a new court will be built as well. Physical education teacher Tim Penicaud said the new courts would be equipped so that he can add tennis instruction to the curriculum.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, West Tisbury selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter donned a yellow hard hat and carried a golden shovel to the future project site, noting that the shovel had also broken ground on the West Tisbury town hall and library.
Mr. Karasik handed Astrid Tilton and rising freshman Jack Rizza two plastic shovels from a sandcastle set. Ms. Paquet and Mr. Hall dug in with their own large garden shovel.
The charter school’s next chapter had begun.