Tam Beautified At A Hefty Price

For nine years now, Tamalpais High School has been constantly making changes to its campus. Between a new pool and locker room, an advanced weight room, a field house, blue tennis courts, a faster drop-off area, two new buildings and many new walkways, Tam has completely changed from the 90’s.

“This is an effective way to do this because it’s what the community wants and it shows that they care about the education of their children,” Assistant Principal Corbett Elsen said.

Despite the fact that the community thought that the money, which was around $82 million total–according to Lori Parrish, the district’s assistant superintendant of finance and facilities – put into the construction was a good investment, many students disagree.

“It would be more beneficial if we used the money to directly help the students,” said sophomore Mike Ma. “Having a pretty and expensive campus won’t help educate me at all, it’s just nice to look at.”

Other students agree with Ma in that the money could have gone to keep classes and teachers.

“They are cutting a bunch of classes next year, some of which I wanted to take,” sophomore Ivy Ryan said. “I would rather have the money spent on the things that will give an education – like classes and teachers – rather than on the campus.”

However, what the students do not realize is that this money was given from the community, and could only be used for the purpose of rebuilding the campus.

Although some students may argue that the money could have been put to better use, some staff thinks otherwise. Girls’ swim coach Peter Winkler thinks that the money put into the modernization was a good investment.

“I once remember reading something in the New York Times about how being on a visually and artistically appealing campus enhances learning,” Winkler said. “The gorgeous campus translates into a better learning environment.”

“[The new campus] is beautiful,” senior Jordan Liff said. “I love how each subject has its own buildings; it divides things up nicely and provides a nice change of scenery.”

“During the 2001 bond [an amount of money paid by the community for the school], nearly every building was modernized or renovated,” Elsen said. “Then in 2005, we discovered mold in Keyser and had to demolish it.”

After the mold was discovered, another bond was started and the plan to build two new Keysers was put into effect. The money for this construction came from the community–every time a bond is proposed, the Tam district voted on whether or not they want to issue it.

According to Elsen, the campus is almost complete. Keyser is still being touched up, and Palmer hall needs new whiteboards.

“There are no major issues, just odds and ends.” Elsen said.

Overall, Elsen is content with the modernization. He praises the quality and he thinks that it is now a physical and safe learning envirnoment that will stay with us for the next 50-75 years.

“I love [my new classroom],” French teacher Brian Zailian said, who has a classroom in upper Keyser. “It’s cozy, warm and welcoming.”

One of Zailian’s students, sophomore Coco Woods agrees with his statement, saying that the class “doesn’t even feel like a classroom.”

Many teachers agree with Zailian, including English teacher Michael Pollard-Krause.

“[My new classroom] is great,” Pollard-Krause said. “I finally feel like I’m part of the campus, something that the portables didn’t offer.”

Although, teachers are glad to leave the portables, many of those in Keyser complain about no air-conditioning, and that the landing on the stairs between the two Keysers is always flooded. Along with these complaints, Spanish teacher Fernando Cruz has another, more unusual complaint.

“[My classroom] is absolutely out of this world,” Cruz said. “But the blinds are the most horrendous piece of window covering I have ever seen in my life.”

“It seems silly to complain because we have one of the best campuses in the sate,” English teacher Austin Bah said. “People look at [this campus] and are reminded of a college campus.”

Another controversial addition to the campus is Classroom 2020. The futuristic classroom, located in Lower Keyser, takes up the size of about two regular classrooms. The room provides each student with a Mac laptop, comfortable chairs that are not attached to the desks, and many plasma TVs that the laptops can be hooked up to.

“What frustrates me is that the things that I need are not there,” said math teacher Chris Erlin. “In math, we need as much whiteboard space as we can get, and this class only has three sliding whiteboards [others have six].”

Erlin both loves and hates the way the chairs and tables are moveable. He likes that he can put them wherever and arrange the classroom however he wants, but so can the other teachers, so before each class he has to re-arrange everything.

Classroom 2020 is only a small part of our renewed campus. As Cruz said, “Patience is like a tree with very sour roots but very sweet fruits. We went through tremendous pain during the construction for years, but now the fruit is here and everyone is enjoying it.”

Written by Camille Kaufman. This article appears in the April 2010 issue.