Student Commons To Be Scrapped for Classroom Space

Junior Devan Johnson, founder of the “Save the Commons” movement, goes into the maintenance room to steal blueprints for the new classrooms. Photo: Genna Schwarz

Every year an increasing number of students are accepted to Pace, and the Arthur M. Blank Family Upper School is not equipped for the influx. The projected number of students to enroll in the high school next year is over 560. This is about 80 more students than previous years. The proposed solution to the problem is to turn the Seaman Family Student Commons into classrooms. “We feel as though this is the only solution,” said Headmaster Fred Assaf. “I know there will be tons of backlash from students and parents, but this solution is in the overall best interest of Pace.”

After the Commons space is transformed, the social areas of the school will include study rooms, the lower library, the Gardens and the Inman Center. “I believe this is definitely enough space for the students to congregate,” said Upper School Head Michael Gannon. “There is no need for the Commons anyway, because it is just a distraction from schoolwork. Now students can focus on their studies and less on the drama occurring in these social spaces.”

Although faculty may think this proposition is beneficial, there is indeed backlash from the student body. “I’m absolutely devastated,” said junior Devan Johnson. “I have no idea where I am supposed to hang out if I can’t go to the Commons. This is an outrage and I will do everything in my power to make the renovation stop.” Johnson has started the “Save the Commons” movement with a group meeting every Friday at 3:30 p.m. 

Construction is set to start on May 12. The plan is to build one dividing wall through the center of the Commons and a second floor to create four new spaces. These classrooms will be used primarily by the history classes and English classes. Currently, teachers are having to share classrooms. For example, history teachers Michael Gannon and Christine Carter and English teachers Ricks Carson and Erica Barbakow share their rooms. These classes will now be conducted in the new classrooms.

In addition, the new history class on propaganda will be taught in these spaces. “I’m so excited to have a brand new classroom to teach my course in,” said history teacher Caitlin Terry. “I cannot believe my dreams of teaching propaganda will be implemented in the spectacular space that was once the Commons.”

Not everything, however, will be lost from the Commons. The existing furniture will be moved to the Senior Cellar and all the televisions will be moved into the Inman Center. Social life at Pace will not end with the demise of the Commons. Ideas for new common spaces are still in the works.

“We deeply regret the impact this will have on the social life at Pace,” said Mr. Assaf. “We will take any student or faculty suggestions for new social areas. If you have any complaints, feel free to contact Mr. Gannon as I will not be answering any emails or calls on the subject.”