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New Spaces on Campus


The college admission season is in full swing, with many Brooks sixth-formers working hard on their college essays during this vacation. Even amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, sixth-formers’ thoughts this Winter Vacation are surely turning to life beyond Brooks — visions of freshman year at college, travel plans, fields of study are starting to take shape in their minds.

As the College Counseling Office helps sixth-formers find their way to higher education and begins to introduce fifth-formers and their families to the process, office members say that their new digs in a former science lab are helping them accomplish that work with Brooks students.

Not only is the office in a newly designed space, they’ve also added a new member to their team — Andy Campbell, associate director of college counseling.

“It was cool that everything came together at once,” Dean of College Counseling Peter Olrich said. “The new space allows for a different experience for visitors, a more appealing one. It’s great for the hundred college representatives who come visit us in the fall to now see us through a more professional lens. And it makes it easier for kids to hang out here instead of just passing through our old offices.”

It’s a new day in the College Counseling department, which now offers programming at an earlier junction in a student’s time on campus in order to establish deeper relationships with families well before the rush of college applications and interviews.

Olrich feels hiring Campbell was at the heart of implementing that new philosophy. But the new office space provides ample room for kids to spend more meaningful time with counselors, as well as creating a better impression for visiting college representatives.

College Counseling isn’t the only department that got a makeover. Construction crews gutted and revamped outdated science classrooms in the academic building for both College Counseling and the Learning Center to fit the needs of the departments and current students.

“One of my goals was to look at our existing footprint,” Director of Strategic Projects Dean Ellerton said. “Why build more when you can repurpose what you have? I’m proud that we didn’t expand anything and that we will have the same maintenance, lighting and heating costs.”

Ellerton moved into his new role this summer, working with Head of School John Packard and the board of trustees on strategic and master planning, as well as crisis and risk management, and human resources policies. Ellerton is charged with keeping initiatives moving forward and helping community members tackle specific projects.

“I look forward to working on a campus master plan, which will include major upgrades to the arts facilities and campus life facilities,” Ellerton said. “Those seem to be top priorities, but a master plan needs to be fluid. So when an opportunity presents itself to, say, kill two birds with one stone, you’re able to act.”

The first two projects that Ellerton worked on this summer were the College Counseling and Learning Center renovations. Both projects were mission-driven, in that the kids were the big winners in the renovation of these two student-centered spaces. Ellerton also noted that the two projects were good templates for future master planning.

The Learning Center, which provides general academic counseling, study and organizational skills development, time management help, writing support and learning styles education, organized a task force last year to identify programmatic needs. One need that jumped to the top of the list: better space.

In the past, the program was squirreled away in various corners of the school, most recently setting up shop in an outdated chemistry lab, complete with a gas hood, Bunsen burners and chemical shower. The only private area was behind a foldable partition Director of the Learning Center Susan Hodgson propped up in a corner. The one thing the room had going for it was location: in the academic building, close to all the classrooms, but away from the primary foot traffic.

“We want to be an integral part of the academic program; we don’t want to be a pullout program,” Hodgson said. “Anyone can come see us anytime for any reason. And we see a good percent of the students; we see almost every kid at some point or another by the time he or she graduates.”

The three employees of the Learning Center — Hodgson, who doubles as an English teacher, math teacher Moira Goodman and history teacher Susannah Parker — worked with Ellerton and Interim Director of Facilities Management Normand Grenier to design a better use of the existing space, creating three private rooms off the main study space, flanked by a small computer center. The school’s facilities department did the construction work and the Swapp family donated funds for new furniture.

As additional office space was needed this academic year to accommodate the new structure of the form deans, it seemed like a good time for College Counseling to find a more modern home that was more easily accessible to visitors. In order to best show the department’s importance on campus, Ellerton turned to Cube 3 Studio, an architectural design team based just over the town line in Lawrence.

Listening closely to departmental needs, the designers turned two classrooms and a storage room in the basement of the academic building — which is directly accessible from the main door on the first floor of the new Science Center — into a modern suite composed of four offices, a substantial waiting/work room, and a conference room.