This is my Head of School blog. I use it to reflect on my own learning, my wonderings about education, and questions about how to shape our school, Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill. I also use it to share with the community things I experience at school. It affords me another way to be present with our ever-growing community of learners.
“We shape our buildings, and afterwards they shape us.”
Winston Churchill, commenting on the rebuilding of the House of Commons
after it was destroyed by German bombing in 1941
Over the last year, Trinity School has undertaken a thorough review of our Campus Master Plan. In January 2014, after a year of surveys, design charrettes, focus group discussions with many stakeholders, and careful consideration of multiple options, Trinity’s Land and Building Committee recommended a new Campus Master Plan, which was approved by the Board unanimously. Architect John Thomas and his team at Boomerang Architects did an excellent job, and I am grateful that in the end a strong consensus emerged around one particular plan. Special thanks go to our Business Manager Brent Clark and to our Land and Building Chair Charles Merritt, who worked tirelessly to see this long process through to the end.
Buildings and campus are not the most important things about Trinity—God, people, and relationships rank higher—but they are important. Churchill’s remark (quoted above) is spot on: We invest a lot in shaping our buildings, and then they shape us in ways we anticipate and also in surprising ways. Since the shaping of human persons and character is at the heart of a school’s purpose, we want to pay close attention to these kinds of things. We have tried to attend to important questions about the shaping of our life together as a TK–12 school as we designed this plan: Do we all want to be on one campus together going forward? (Yes.) What is Trinity’s optimal size? (600–650 students, Lord willing.) How can we attend to safety as we grow the campus? How will traffic flow? What kinds of spaces will support the mission of the school? How can we preserve as much green space as possible and increase outdoor access, in keeping with our pedagogy of outdoor education? How do we want to break bread and eat together as a community as we grow? Will we want to expand our athletic facilities?
Our Master Plan is a consolidated plan: rather than spreading our buildings out, it locates them close together, so as to maximize green space. It enhances Lower School play areas while providing the option of separate entrances for each division.
I am excited now to share with the larger Trinity community the outlines of this plan. N.B.: This plan is not funded. Trinity will need to raise significant funds through capital campaigns to make any and all phases a reality.
Let’s start with our current campus as our baseline. Here we are on Google Maps:
TRINITY SCHOOL | Current Campus
The new Campus Master Plan is designed to be built out in four phases. (Some of these phases could be combined, but I will lay them out sequentially, so we can see how this unfolds incrementally.) The order of Phases 1 and 2 seems clear to us; Phases 3 and 4 might easily be built in reverse order, or consolidated, depending on many factors we cannot now foresee.
The first phase of our new plan adds one thing and renovates another: We add a Commons Space on the north side of the South Building; and because this Commons space will house the MS and US Library/Media Center, the current MS/US Library can be reimagined for other purposes and will be renovated accordingly. A Commons space is both a student center (a place for breaks, for gathering, for play, for conversation, etc.) and a learning commons (library space, media resources center, a variety of study and collaboration areas). This Commons space will likely be the place where the US has Cornerstone, where the MS and US have their weekly worship, and where MS and US students eat their lunches. It will be a very versatile space.
Below is a diagram—but first a caution: Remember that a Master Plan is not a footprint of buildings. It is a conceptual and spatial representation of a plan, which needs to be shaped much more carefully. The buildings on this plan are placeholders—the spaces represent the right amount of square footage (our Master Plan is a very educated guess about the sorts of spaces we think we need), but we should not expect Google Maps to reveal buildings that are shaped and located exactly like this in the future.
MASTER PLAN Phase One
In the second phase of our Campus Master Plan we envision a new two-storyFine Arts Center to be constructed on the west end of the existing South Building. This Fine Arts Center will include a 500-seat black box theater and instructional space for the visual arts,
dramatic arts, and music programs for all grades, TK–12. A new Commons will also be constructed to connect the Lower School and Fine Arts Building to the Learning Commons, and additional space will be built for Trinity’s after-school programs. Other renovations will be made to the South Building, and the site development for Phase 2 will include construction of new angled parking spaces along the existing entry drive.
MASTER PLAN Phase Two
Phase 3 of the Trinity School Master Plan consists of new construction and renovation in the existing Lower School Building. A new two-story addition will be constructed on the northeast end of the existing Lower School Building. This addition will create a distinct new entrance for that division and provide space for the LS administration and new LS classrooms. The existing Lower School Building will be extensively renovated to enlarge the existing classrooms and expand the LS library. The site development for Phase 3 will include the creation of a new loop road around the campus, along with new parking and a LS drop-off area. The loop road will allow for the elimination of the existing north entry drive and the construction of a new, expanded LS play area without any traffic interference.
MASTER PLAN Phase Three
Phase 4 of the Trinity School Master Plan consists of new construction and
renovation in the existing South Building. A new two-story Upper School Building will
be constructed on the north end of the Fine Arts Center. The Upper School Building will
include classrooms and small group, commons, and administrative space. The lower level of the Upper School Building will also include a 300-seat dining hall and warming kitchen. The South Building will be renovated to house the MS division and the consolidated campus administration, including the admissions, advancement, and business offices, along with other cross-divisional programs.
MASTER PLAN Phase Four
Trinity’s New Campus Master Plan
Only the Lord knows how long it will take us to build all four of these phases. And there is no doubt that as the school grows and fills out, amendments to the Master Plan will occur. But this plan gives us a roadmap to guide us, and we are very grateful for the direction this provides.
Two final notes, about athletics and parking:
We did look at plans that put buildings on the current athletic fields, but the strong consensus of the leaders was that preserving key athletic events on this campus was an important part of our community life together. Basketball games on a Friday evening and baseball and soccer on a spring afternoon are vitally important to the life of the school. So we kept our athletic facilities in place. We do recognize that for the addition of other sports and for long-term support of current sports (like tennis), we will need to look at a second, satellite campus for some athletic functions of the school. The acquisition of additional land is a corollary of this plan.
This plan modestly augments Trinity’s parking capacity and meets all necessary codes. We are well aware, however, that the parking in this master plan is inadequate for parking demands, and this plan may necessitate changes in the driving habits of staff and students. We have placed a premium on keeping all students, TK–12, on the same campus, and this results in certain parking challenges. In the long run, we will need to look at carpooling and other strategies to promote high-occupancy vehicles, as well as satellite and remote parking options.
TRINITY SCHOOL CAMPUS MASTER PLAN
And so we give you, Trinity School’s Campus Master Plan!