The Harwood Union High School (HUHS) building needs work. At a Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board meeting on April 28, HUUSD co-principals Laurie Greenberg and Meg McDonough presented to the board, explaining why the HUHS is in need of renovation.
“As we continue to wait for the bond, costs are increasing, delayed maintenance costs included,” said McDonough. “A fresh coat of paint, new carpeting and new furniture will certainly provide a facelift, but the Harwood community needs to address the water that is leaking through our ceilings, the pavement that’s cracking across out entire parking lot and an ineffective HVAC system.”
McDonough advocated that the HUUSD Board use a bond to fix the major structural repairs that need to be done, as well as revamp the interior of the building. Specifically, she noted that Harwood was built in the 1960s when many schools were modeled after prisons, with limited natural light, dark hallways and interior, windowless classrooms. Of course, not every Harwood classroom is windowless. However, every Harwood classroom can be updated to improve student learning outcomes, argued McDonough.
“Just as our approach to learning has changed drastically over the past 70 years, our understanding of an effective learning environment that promotes engagement, rigor and belonging has as well,” said McDonough.
As an example of where the district has gone right in terms of creating an effective learning environment, McDonough pointed to the middle school. “Work has already been done on the middle school. What used to be a room full of lockers has now been transformed into a learning hub with natural light, many different seating options,” said McDonough.
In other words, renovating the high school won’t simply be a matter of patching the roof and replacing old desks with new desks, if it is done according to the vision of HUUSD principals. HUUSD principals envision more collaborative learning environments, in which students are not confined to individual, front-facing desks to practice rote memorization, but where they have access to peer-facing round tables that evoke peer-on-peer discussion, even in a science lab setting.
“We are a community that sets its children up to be competitive as they transition to college and careers, while also continuing to bring new families into our district,” said McDonough. Right now, our high school lacks a 21st-century learning environment.”
Co-principal Greenberg argued that a massive interior renovation could also attract more families to the district and ameliorate the district’s enrollment problem. “The program your high school offers and the facilities your high school offers, affect enrollment which is declining in the state as a whole,” said Greenberg.
Moreover, Greenberg argued that nice high school facilities are more than something nice to look at. They can be used to actively promote learning, safety and inclusion. “Infrastructures and facilities are the foundation to goals and vision. Facilities are the foundation for a safe community, a rigorous curriculum, a positive learning culture,” said Greenberg. “Our goal is to create a Harwood community where every student who walks through our doors feels a sense of belonging.”