Peck Place students adjust to Yale

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Photo by Clinton Wang.

Two months after a burst pipe caused severe damage to Peck Place School, the school’s elementary students and faculty members are adjusting to their temporary home at Yale West Campus.

In early January, a pipe burst at the public elementary school located in Orange, Conn. and the resulting water damage exposed asbestos in the adhesive holding down the floor tiles. Just last week, $109 million was allocated to continue renovations at Peck Place. In the meantime, students and faculty are adjusting well to their unconventional school on West Campus.

Yale University agreed to house the students in Office Complex South at West Campus for the remainder of the school year so that Peck Place can undergo an emergency abatement and other renovations.

“The biggest challenge has been regaining a sense of normalcy in our new space,” Peck Place School Principal Eric Carbone said in an email. “We are so fortunate to have this space and would be lost without it.”

After the pipe burst, Yale facilities workers and Peck Place faculty members worked together to transform the office building into a school in less than three weeks, and students have since had to adjust to the larger and more open space.

One critical difference at West Campus, Carbone said, is that classrooms are not walled off, requiring teachers and students to transition to “open space teaching,” a system that he said gained popularity in the 1970s to promote a greater sense of community among students in different age groups. Dividers separate classrooms, but students can see and hear what is happening in surrounding classrooms.

Ellen Miller, a Special Education teacher at Peck Place, said teachers and students have learned to speak softer to avoid distracting other classrooms, but that overall the change has not negatively impacted student learning.

Yale’s three-story complex is also larger than the one-story Peck Place School building, so students and teachers have been forced to adjust to walking farther between classes, said Superintendent of Orange Public Schools Lynn McMullin. She added that teachers are not complaining about this change, noting the advantages it offers instead.

“They have tackled the change in space eagerly,” McMullin said. “Adults teachers are saying they are getting good exercise by going up and down the stairs all day.”

She also noted some benefits of the new school building, such as private offices for each teacher where students can work one-on-one with tutors. At Peck Place, students would typically work with tutors in the corner of a classroom, but they now have a quieter space.

The recent funding allocated by the Orange Board of Selectman and Board of Finance will help them move onto Phase II of the abatement, which involves abating the remaining classrooms and library. So far they have already abated the 11 heavily impacted school classrooms.

McMullin said that the additional money will also go towards new floors, ceilings, paint, cabinetry, lighting and plumbing. The school is hoping to complete the renovations by Aug. 1 to leave time for teachers to prepare their restored classrooms for a new school year.

Peck Place school was founded in 1969.

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