Faculty and students at the Academy have heard lots of rumors about Pace’s plans for a new Upper School building. Last year, architects came and asked students and teachers what they wanted in the new building and drew the first blueprints. Since then, much has been finalized and construction is set to start in May 2013 (so freshmen and sophomores, prepare for “learning cottages”). Headmaster Mr. Assaf said, “The plans are substantively the same [as last year]. We are very excited about the design.” He also said that progress on and fundraising for the project continues, explaining, “Currently we are full steam ahead on both the construction project and raising the needed funds for the Upper School and library. I have to say that I’m blown away by the generosity of our benefactors.” He is confident that Pace will raise enough money to complete the building by Fall 2014. This means that the freshman class will have a brand new building their senior year, and will probably experience a lot of “firsts.”

While students await the start of construction, many wonder what the new building will look like. Most talk revolves around the new student commons area. “I am most excited about the student commons,” said junior Lauren Melville. “It is supposed to be a lounge hangout with comfy couches. It will be great to be rid of the disgusting Inman Center couches.” Sophomore Wilson Crisler commented, “I have heard it is going to be like Hogwarts and Narnia. There will be a big common room with a fireplace.” Sophomore Jake Pokalsky added, “Everyone will wear monogrammed bathrobes and travel on segways. There will be a jazz band in every corner and all the clocks will be wrong.”
The trick is sorting fact from fiction. The plans include a student commons, with tables and chairs, where students can hang out during free periods. There also will be state-of-the-art labs for the science classes to utilize, where students can get down and dirty in their lab coats and safety goggles. Most exciting for Pace’s academic life are the new classrooms and library plans. The library will be two stories and will have break-out spaces for collaborative study and silent study. Some special features include a spiral staircase and a fireplace. The ARC will also be improved significantly. It will be a lot more spacious and include separate rooms for tutoring sessions. The building will have lots of study rooms, where students can work alone or in groups, placed throughout the building and there will even be a terrace on the top level of the building where students can sit or work outside.

While students feel some attachment to the current Upper School, many are happy to see the old building go. “I think the most exciting part will be destroying this school,” said sophomore Sydney Benator. Most students have heard Dr. DuPree rant about the cockroaches or Mrs. Durlin’s horror stories about the building. “This building has had so many problems in the past with water leaks and drainage, not to mention vermin,” Mrs. Durlin said. Around the time the Inman Center was being constructed, Mrs. Durlin had an unpleasant experience with a rat. “The old cafeteria [where the science and math rooms are now] apparently had an infestation [of rats] and when construction started, the rats fled to other parts of the building. That is when I noticed a smell in my room, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.” Low and behold, it was a decaying rat lodged in the ceiling. Mrs. Durlin continued, “It was the worst stench I have ever smelled. I was burning candles and spraying freshener, but nothing would mask the stench.” Eventually maintenance located and removed the rat, but Mrs. Durlin said her room has never smelled the same since.

Mrs. Durlin is very excited about having a new building: “I’m not sure we will know what to do with ourselves in a state-of-the-art building. It will really be a blessing.” Senior Frances Fuqua expressed the widespread sentiment of upperclassmen, saying, “I just wish I could be here when it is finished!”

By Taylor Esler, Managing Editor ’12

Illustration: Collins Cooper Carusi Architects

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.