Chamblee’s Extreme Makeover

May 2011

Carrie Moore

From May 2011:
After years of empty promises regarding a new building, Chamblee finally gets a grant to begin construction.
Established in 1917, Chamblee has parts of its building that are nearly one hundred years old. Though the school has been known for its academic achievements, it has been equally infamous for its outdated infrastructure. This year’s freshman class, however, will potentially be the first to possess a great academic program as well as a great building.
“In theory, you’re supposed to walk in a new building August 2013,” said administrator Rick Blitz. “It has to do with the way the new building has to come up.”
Chamblee’s new building has quite the upgrade. The school will be four stories high, with tentative plans to organize each level by grade or by subject. (Plans also involve stacking science classrooms one on top of another at the corners of each floor.) A state of the art gym and cafeteria are also in the plans, along with functioning elevators. Needless to say, part of the restructuring plan will also involve expansion.
“We are going from 160,000 square feet to 290,000 square feet,” said Blitz. “The school will be a lot bigger. The desks will be new. The lockers will be new. Everything will be new.”
One of the potential highlights of the new building centers on the new media center. Current plans allow for the media center to be a hip focal point of the school. As it stands now, the media center will be a place for students to hangout, work on homework, and relax with a book. Coffee might even be served.
“It would be kind of like Starbucks,” said Blitz. “That’s what we would like to happen.”
Another great feature of the new building will be a new theater. Currently, Chamblee plays are often done “black box style,” taking place in the band room because of the horrible acoustics, and general “un-theater-like” set up of the cafeteria. With the new building, all of that would change.
Plans include a six-hundred-seat theater, equipped with spare rooms for dressing and set building.
“For my posterity and the legacy I’m leaving behind, I’m glad they’ll [the students who will get to use the facility] be supplied in the theater department,” said senior Joya Richmond, who has been in every musical production since her freshman year, three of which have been “black box style.” “When I was here, they gave us the dates for the show, and where it was held was strictly up to us. I just hope that the kids that will be here when the theater is finished will respect it and truly appreciate what they have.”
In addition to strengthened media center and theater programs, security at the new building will also be tightened, for students and intruders alike.
“Skipping is going to be a lot harder, honestly,” said Campus Supervisor Theodore Carter, who is often involved in disciplinary duties. “In the [new] main building, we will probably have over 200 cameras. There will be cameras in every stairwell and over every door going in and out of the building.”
In addition, Chamblee may get another campus supervisor, raising the number of supervisors from two to three.
Parking at the new Chamblee will also improve; Chamblee will have its own parking deck, making transportation easier for students as well as faculty.
Naturally, upgrading Chamblee comes with disadvantages as well, particularly the awkward, sudden transition period that is scheduled to begin next semester.
Phase one of the plan involves closing off half of the school building – from the library on to the senior – and demolishing that half. The students will be moved to the other half of the building, while construction on the new building begins on the demolished half.
Obviously, there seem to be several difficulties with this plan. One is the sudden lack of space to accommodate the student body.
“While the building is being built, we are putting 27 trailers on the baseball field,” said Carter. “After that I plan to spend 85 percent of my time outside.”
It was later confirmed that 33 trailers will be put on the field.
However, this does not mean that illegal activities such as skipping will be tolerated.
“The school itself won’t have many students,” said Carter. “ About 75 percent will be outside. I think I will have more control to stop skipping. If they’re [students are] skipping, they will have to go through construction.”
Nevertheless, the incoming trailers will still be very much in contact with the main building.
“My guess is that they will have nighttime security for the trailers,” said Blitz. “They’ll take cameras from that part of the building and put them in the back. All of the trailers will be hooked up and wired to the intercom, so we will still have fire drills, tornado drills, and all of that. It will just be a case of rewiring all of it.”
The good news is that Chamblee will not be experiencing any significant population growth in the near future. While Chamblee will naturally still accept the incoming freshmen, it will not be accepting any No Child Left Behind students in higher grades.
“We won’t be getting any more students except for ninth graders,” said Carter. “As far as I know, no more No Child Left Behind students will be coming.”
Plans for students in the main building have not yet been developed. Unconfirmed rumors circulate about how moving next year’s senior class on to the freshman in English hallways.
“We will have the ninth grade hall in the English hall”, said Blitz. “They won’t be called that next year, and it all has to be done before they [the students] walk into school next August.”
For locker space and senior courtyard privileges, there have been discussions revolving around using the hall of fame hallway and junior courtyards.
“Dr. [Rochelle] Lowery is considering using the junior courtyard as the senior courtyard,” said Advanced Placement United States History teacher Stephen Rubino, who has been very active in the process. “If they do that, I made the suggestion that they take out the Hall of Fame and use that as part of the senior hallway. At least that way seniors will have a place. Ninth-graders? Who cares? Let them carry book bags.”
Another issue is the lack of parking space during the transition period. Phase one of the plan also involves demolishing the teacher parking lot, which poses problems for juniors and seniors who wish to drive next year.
“Next school year, we won’t have the privileges of allowing juniors and seniors to buy parking,” said Carter.
The lack of space for parking forces school administrators to get creative when thinking of ways to accommodate faculty cars. Rumors of letting the faculty use the gravel pit as well as other options have been discussed.
“If they’re going to take out the teacher’s parking lot for construction, the only logical place to park is Chamblee Plaza,” said Blitz. “I can tell you we will not be issuing student parking.”
Others feel differently about using the Plaza.
“The people in charge of the construction are looking for someplace for parking,” said Carter. “I don’t think it will be across the street. It’s not big enough.”
Other issues with plans for the new building include unaddressed concerns about the apartments nearby, and the restructuring of the school’s location. Though Chamblee will keep its address, the configuration of the building will have to change. There are currently no definite plans for reconfiguration.
The added pressure of having to begin construction as soon as possible does not make planning the new building any easier. Teachers find themselves having to pack up immediately as anything left behind will be immediately demolished.
“We knew it was coming,” said Advanced Placement World History teacher Gail Barnes, whose classroom is on the senior hallway, which is scheduled to be demolished next semester. “There’s this process of getting boxes and packing. We’ve accumulated so much stuff over the years, and it’s like ‘Oh My God! I’ve been in this room fifteen years!’ It’s a different kind of packing up.”
Because the bonds and grants for the new building must be sold and repaid within a short time frame (a little less than three years), construction has to be completed as soon as possible. Chamblee cannot simply hold on to the money and begin a slow but perhaps focused process of constructing a new building.
“They told me that ‘everything’s got to be packed up. If you have anything of personal value, then take it with you’,” said Barnes. “Supposedly, construction will begin the beginning of next school year. There are bonds that have to be sold and repaid and construction has to be done within ‘X’ amount of time.”
Phase two of the plan involves moving students into the finished part of the building after construction there is completed. The other old half will then be demolished and construction of that part of the new building will begin.
For many Chamblee faculty members, great sentimental value is attached to the current Chamblee building. Many faculty members went to school here, enjoying their high school years in the moldy, decrepit building.
Brian Ely graduated from Chamblee in 1996 and participated in “We the People,” was in marching band, and played for the baseball and basketball teams. Now Ely has come full circle, teaching Civics and Advanced Placement United States History. Chamblee is a significant part of his life.
“I know the building’s old, decrepit, and unsafe but it’s the familiarity that means so much,” said Ely. “The real thing about it is not really the building. It’s the people inside it and that’s what I’ll always remember about it.”
Rubino, who is also a Chamblee graduate, said:
“When I was a senior, they were two years away from completing this [the current senior hallway] part of the building,” said Rubino. “They had squared it off, and this part of the building was inaccessible. I don’t feel an attachment because, for me, it’s coming full circle. I think it’s harder for others because this building was the building they grew up in.”