MUSCATINE — The prospect of remodeling the science rooms at 44-year-old Muscatine High had plenty of people excited Monday, but there were some concerns.
Stanley Consultants appeared before the board to offer their feasibility study’s recommendation and answer what questions they had. The school has been talking about this build for the better part of a decade. While a number of ideas have come and gone, the board has been talking about the remodel as the addition of a STEM facility, a space multi-disciplinary learning. But some board members were not convinced that the concepts presented were in step with that vision.
“It just has a different look and feel than what I had in mind,” said Tim Bower, MCSD board member. “I would like to see some additional concepts because until we see some additional concepts we don't have an idea of how we should proceed and what we need. I'm not looking for detailed drawings or detailed information but just some concepts on how it could look.”
In the concept drawings provided, the rooms were labeled “SCIENCE LAB/LECTURE” and “CHEMISTRY LAB/LECTURE.” It got the board wondering if they were willing to spend upward of $9 million on a science facility that seems, in a few of their minds, old hat.
“I see how the concepts would work for the current science labs as we are talking about them,” said Aaron Finn, MCSD board member. “But are they really STEM labs? Are they really bringing in industrial arts and industrial engineering and math and all those other things because they are all just labeled science labs.”
“With my background in the construction of facilities, I was concerned about what are we really getting out of this?” Bower said. “STEM is not just a science lab and it seems like we are hung up on that part.”
Both Bower and Finn wondered whether the 2nd floor rooms would have adequate access for projects involving machinery or equipment. In addition, the price per square foot for remodeling existing space versus moving them upstairs was the same in the feasibility study.
“I'm wondering how that's possible,” Finn said. “Remodeling in place seems like it should be less expensive.”
But for both, the question came down to vision:
“Are we really thinking about them as multi-disciplinary rooms?” Finn said. “We had science teachers. We didn't have any math teachers here. We didn't have any engineering teachers here. Are we really thinking of them as multi-disciplinary? Or are we engaging the science department to remodel the science rooms? Don't get me wrong, the science rooms need to be remodeled. They've been that way since I was (a student at MHS). But are we really thinking about them as STEM rooms as well as science rooms? If it's just science rooms, that's still okay, but then where does STEM happen?”
Based on the study, they found that the second-floor language arts/social studies area would allow for the highest number of lecture/lab spaces, the least amount of construction-related disruption and the most access to natural light. Of their drafts, it was also the concept that came with approval from the high school’s science faculty.
“For a lot of us, this has been a really exciting thing to finally be able to talk about; to actually get new science classrooms,” said Sarah Walsh, a biology and environmental science teacher at the high school. "I agree it's important for all students and teachers to be exposed to light, but as a biology teacher and environmental science teacher, it is kind of imperative to my curriculum that I have access to light.”