Harker middle school reopens for in-person learning at Union campus

Middle+school+faculty+and+Assistant+Head+of+School+for+Academic+Affairs+Jennifer+Gargano+tour+the+Union+campus.+On+Tuesday%2C+Aug.+17%2C+the+administration+hosted+a+special+ribbon+cutting+ceremony+to+announce+the+official+opening+of+the+middle+school+campus.+

Provided by the Office of Commmunication

Middle school faculty and Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs Jennifer Gargano tour the Union campus. On Tuesday, Aug. 17, the administration hosted a special ribbon cutting ceremony to announce the official opening of the middle school campus.

by Shinjan Ghosh, Talon Co-Editor-in-Chief

After entering the middle school campus on the first day of school, biology teacher Kristen Morgensen recalls walking through the hallway of the main academic building on moving day. She scanned the doors until she found her classroom and took a look inside. Several boxes packed with supplies lay on the floor, and the walls were covered by empty wooden cabinets with glass doors. She traveled to the opposite side of the room and opened the door of her classroom, letting in the fresh air. Taking a deep breath, she picked up the first box and began to unpack for her new classroom.  

Over the summer, the Harker Middle School began moving locations from the Blackford Ave. campus to the Union Ave. campus, which was previously the location of the Harker Preschool. After leasing the property on Blackford Ave. for sixteen years, the middle school started developing its own property at a new location on Union Ave., making adjustments for the needs of the students, faculty and administration. The current transportation system also takes students to the Union Ave. campus and follows a new schedule.

On Tuesday, Aug. 17, the administration hosted a special ribbon cutting ceremony to announce the official opening of the middle school campus. History teacher and Middle School History Department Chair Keith Hirota shares his enthusiasm for the transition to the Union Ave. location.

“We’re seeing the students after 18 months,” Hirota said. “ I’m excited about having a fresh start at a new campus, especially coming out of COVID-19. Since the new campus is smaller, I think it will bring everyone closer. I’m really looking forward to having that new energy.”

The layout of the Union Ave. campus provides new opportunities for teachers and students alike. For instance, the science classrooms are all located on the ground floor and contain interior hallway doors as well as exterior doors. Morgensen feels that the design of her classroom contributes to her students’ learning experience.

Middle school biology teacher Kristin Morgensen unpacks boxes in her classroom at the new middle school campus on Aug. 9. The first day of classes at the new middle school campus was Monday, Aug. 23. (Provided by the Office of Communication)

“If we have experiments that need a little more space, we can open the door to step right outside and do the lab there,” Morgensen said. “As a biology teacher, it’s great to have access to the ecology of the campus. “Now that we’re back in person, I am excited to see [what activities we can do] in this space.”

Earlier in the year, the administration informed teachers that they would be moving to a new location, and they began packing up their classrooms at Blackford Ave. for the move. Since construction was still in progress at the time, the main challenge for the teachers was figuring out which supplies to bring for their new classrooms. On Aug. 9, they began unpacking their boxes with the help of the maintenance and groundskeeping staff.

There are so many great opportunities to redefine who we are as a middle school through this new space.”

— Patricia Burrows, Assistant Middle School Division Head

The new campus, which will open for classes on Monday, Aug. 23, contains many different areas where people can spend time together. After more than a year of remote learning, these spaces provide opportunities for the students to share in-person interactions.

“There’s a lot of seating in the hallways and outside,” Morgensen said. “I’m excited about students filling that space and having a separate gym and theater. They really designed it to have places for students to hang out the way the upper school campus does.”

The design of the Union Ave. location also creates a different atmosphere, with spacious classrooms that have colorful doors and high ceilings. Assistant Middle School Division Head Patricia Burrows, who has been part of the Harker community since the opening of the Blackford Ave. campus in 2005, reflects on the moving process to the new campus so far.

“The new campus feels very appropriate for the age group,” Burrows said. “It feels as if it will be easier to create connections because it’s easier to access people. There are so many great opportunities to redefine who we are as a middle school through this new space.”

Additional reporting by Ritika Rajamani.