When Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School students return to class Thursday morning, they will get a look at what for the past year has been an inconvenient but enticing project: a new high-tech wing for math, technology and art.
District officials and students Wednesday night unveiled the new STEAM wing, named for the science, technology, engineering, art and math classes it will house, showing off around 25,000 square feet of new classroom space.
Dozens of students volunteered to give tours to the large crowd that showed up for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. For the students, the new space might take a few moments to absorb on Thursday, one student predicted.
“I think for the first few minutes it will be hard to get everyone to class and then it will be back to business,” said junior Noah Van Osterlitz, who is taking metal technology in the new space this year.
On the ground floor of the addition that stretches beyond the school’s auditorium, art classrooms line one side – including a fine arts computer lab outfitted with 30 large Apple desktops – while a wall of windows across the hall opens into a large space divided into three technology workshops and a central design hub.
The technology side of the addition includes a machining, welding and metal-working space; an equally large wood-working space is connected by a slightly smaller area that will be dedicated to creating prototypes and small models that can be scaled up on the metal or wood side of the shop.
But the spaces are designed to be flexible, district science and technology coordinator Dave Collins said, giving the district room to shift their uses as new programs and classes are designed or student projects undertaken. With large doorways connecting each part of the space, students will be encouraged to work across disciplines.
“Here we are trying to show that when students with multiple competencies collaborate, the end product is much better due to the connections,” Collins said.
The second floor of the addition houses math classes, which are paired so they can easily be combined into large, collaborative spaces. All of the high school’s math classes will be housed in the new addition, so all students will take classes in the space during their high school years
A computer science room, which is outfitted with a high-end Cisco videoconferencing system that can automatically track to whatever student is speaking, will let the district pipe in classes from elsewhere or offer a remote class centered at Burnt Hills. The math classes included interactive projectors and digital scanners of their own.
With updates to the high school library and construction of a new black box theater, the high school construction totals around $20 million of a $34.2 million capital project approved by voters in 2013. District officials broke ground on the project at the end of the 2016 school year.
Principal Tim Brunson said he expects the new wing will garner more interest from students in the fields showcased there and give the district the chance to expand offerings in robotics and engineering, while also giving art students opportunities to work on welding and metal sculpting.
Hailey Aldrich, the student government president and student representative on the school board, wielded the scissors to officially open the new wing Wednesday.
“We are all on the same playing field right now, we are adjusting and learning together,” she said of the new equipment and space and what it will become in the years ahead. “The only way we will get there is as a team,” she said.