By Meera Somaiya
On some days, it hits me that 12 grades as well as grades such as KG 1 and KG 2 are all crammed into Ascend International School’s 6 floor building, and one of the floors haven’t been used for classrooms, as it is a pool. Seeing the school be able to fit all these people, sometimes I relate it to the Mary Poppins magic bag. It seems weird, doesn’t it? The constant yells of younger students, the confusion and the continuous changes on who goes where for what class, either each year or each semester. But now, after 10 years of the school’s opening, we can see a new building which according to the Chairman of the school, Mr. Aditya Patil, they have an “ambitious goal” of being finished at the end of this academic year, May 2022. So what problems does this building solve? What is the need for this building? What problems will the building create? So to get answers, I’ve set out to ask people around the school about the upcoming building, from the administration; who play a crucial part in the development of the new building, to the students and teachers, as I think everyone in the community should voice their opinion.
So what’s so special? Well, we need a new school. Sure, that’s true, but there is a sort of big deal about it, as there are going to be major changes happening almost everywhere. We’ll see new systems in place, subject based classrooms, new facilities coming into place and old facilities being revamped, and a lone building turning into a campus.
Let’s talk about the main change for both students and teachers; the subject based classrooms. It doesn’t seem like a huge change at first, but when you look more closely at the main changes, it is. First of all, less walking for the teachers, more walking for us. From what I got from Ms. Varsha Agarwal Rodewald, the MYP-DP head of the school, “the subject based classrooms will make it easier for students and teachers to transition, as well as having the resources being available on the board, and a whole different atmosphere for each of the classrooms.” But the main question is; what problems do we have already that have been normalized into becoming daily activities? Change. Change is inevitable at the end of the day, but too much change isn’t the best, is it? But in our school, it was a bit different. Nobody had the ability to keep up with all the changes happening. First the school couldn’t keep up with the amount of students piling in, and then students who were already there couldn’t keep up with the change in where they were placed, making them more confused than ever, and then at the end the amount of changes happening became normal. I personally think that subject based classrooms will change that, as our L&L teacher Ms. Leslie Bartley had brought up a point saying; “our memory of what we learned in class would be better if we stayed in a classroom dedicated to that subject.” But what are those classrooms going to be?
The more I’ve asked people the more answers I get, undeniably. So when I was thinking about the academic influence for the reasoning for the new facilities which are going to be added, it was surprising to get a very miniscule amount of information, until it hit me. The new facilities in the new school aren’t defined by their purpose or their use; it’s everything about it. A lot of the current classrooms in our school have a unideal design where people in the back aren’t able to see the board or hear the speaker when they’re presenting or teaching, and this causes a problem, doesn’t it? Think about it, have you ever been in a class where you couldn’t see the board? Or a classroom where you couldn’t hear the teacher? In the new school, the new facilities seem to be made in such a way that everyone can see and hear when they need to, and maybe things won’t be as colorful as they are now, as the current school we get our education from is made primarily for the PYP; the Primary Years Program. That includes color all over the school, windows at random places, green chairs and triangular desks. Some of this could be distracting, and some of these elements could be important to Ascend’s way of teaching and learning. So how do we differentiate the important features and the distracting ones? It’s complicated. To me, the triangular desks may be cool; but not practical. The windows are definitely distracting; seeing people outside, your friends could easily wave to you leading to you saying “Hi!” back. It’s a distraction. It may be cool, but a distraction nevertheless. A lot of color is also something which can be both distracting and necessary. Color stops a place from being a boring, bland environment, as my friend, an 8th grade student at Ascend; Tarana told me that “I told my friends that I was excited to go to school, and they said “why?” because they didn’t realize that I actually was excited to go. In Ascend I was always excited to go to school, and I think that’s partly because of the colors.” Color is something important to the culture of Ascend, but an overuse of it is a distraction. But if we think in the practical terms of a facility, would you think about new rooms that we would be able to use? But what would that mean, academically? Labs. Having labs in a school which is struggling to find timings for each class to use the one lab for all three of the sciences; physics, chemistry, and biology. Having new labs would mean they would be more complex, and more studies would be able to be done, as well as the fact that there would be more time available to use the labs. As a student, I know we have lab timings and it can be frustrating for some of the teachers as I’ve seen formative dates being shifted for the purpose of lab timings. That’s not convenient for a bunch of teachers or students, I assume. The new labs will make way for more convenient work timings and it would be easier to learn in the new environments. But there’s got to be more spaces, facilities, like the lunchroom, for example.
I personally think that the lunchroom in our new school is the main thing that shifts our lone building into a campus, like I said before, in the second paragraph. Why is the lunchroom out of all things something that makes our building a campus, though? Why not the fact that there’s a whole other building? Let me answer that. A campus environment is different from 2 buildings next to each other with no fence in between. So in order to have a campus environment, there needs to be a need for us to use our current school. The need is that our lunchroom will be smaller than our current school’s lunchroom. That makes way for informal spaces to be placed around the school’s exterior and I was told by Mr. Aditya Patil that we as students would be allowed to use the lunchroom in the current school building. This gives us space to sit where we want. To interact with people around. To walk from one side to the next. A campus environment can change a community completely. A campus means that you can see people everywhere. It feels comfortable to walk around and see some familiar faces. You would know more people, as well. And that takes me into the community activities.
The community is something that is incredibly important to Ascend’s culture. Ascend is all for interconnectedness and helping each other. The new facilities which are coming in could help strengthen our community by letting us have more club spaces. We’re going to have a choir room, which means a school choir, a black box theatre which means better drama plays and musical performances, and maybe even the Ascent and Interact Rotary Club could have their own designated space, where they can have planning sheets on the wall, different whiteboards, places to put their work, and so much more if they just had a classroom dedicated to their club. These new facilities could strengthen how productive the clubs are, or how the teamwork builds up. Everything could change so drastically without me being able to explain as the changes are so small but they can make such a difference in our community and our school environment.
But, what’s going to happen when we go? Well, when we move into the new building, our current fourth and fifth floor will be converted into spaces for the PYP. I was told by the PYP head, Ms Radhika Rajgarhia, that they would want to convert our floors into more classrooms for the PYP, of course. The extra space would let the school expand their quantity of people, with what Mr. Aditya Patil told me about how they currently have an A and B of each class, they’d like to extend it to an A, B, and C classroom based system. Long story short, the school is growing really fast, and the new school is one of the biggest signs of that growth.
Patil, Aditya, and Meera Somaiya. “Chairman Interview – Ascend New Building.” 26 Nov. 2021.
Rajgarhia, Radhika, and Meera Somaiya. “PYP Head Interview – Ascend New Building .” 24 Nov. 2021.
Rodewald, Varsha Agarwal, and Meera Somaiya. “DP/MYP Head Interview – Ascend New Building.” 3 Dec. 2021.
Ramachandra, Tarana, and Meera Somaiya. “Student Interview – Tarana – Ascend New Building.” 7 Nov. 2021.