Phillips Exeter Academy is a divine secondary school campus in the cozy town of New Hampshire. As one of the oldest secondary schools in the United States, the academy is abundant in historic buildings and green patches of grass. But for most of the year, Exeter embarks on a mission to continuously improve the school facilities.
One thing you will not miss as you rummage your way to class are the huge, dusty piles of soil and cement guarded by dandelion- yellow “CAUTION” tapes. Once you catch sight of the South Campus, these mountains of concrete lie scattered at every corner of your eye; often accompanied by the blaring sounds of machinery operated by contractors in their bright yellow helmets.
Exeter’s South Campus, the main land for the athletic complex, is undergoing two huge renovations – namely a theater and a new field house. According to Ms. Elena Gosalvez-Blanco, the director in charge of this new construction, “these projects have been ongoing during the year” since mid-2016.
The David E. Goel and Stacy L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance is being built in response to the high level of student interest in the performing arts program. The theater is going to be a 63,130 square-foot professional facility. The official Phillips Exeter Academy website notes that it will house “two theater stages, two dance venues (plus technical studios and classrooms)” that “will deepen and diversify students’ experience.” The mainstage theater has 350 seats and an orchestra pit while the thrust stage theater has seating for 149. Meanwhile, the first dance performance studio has 119 seats and the second will be used chiefly for classes and rehearsals.
The Field House is a 84,574 square-foot recreational space, complete with a 200-meter track and advanced training facilities. The area has four indoor tennis courts, a multi-purpose infield and a wrestling room. Exeter is also proud to announce that the Field House “will also contain a dedicated NCAA-regulation area for shot put, high jump, long jump and pole vault.” On the mezzanine level of the Field House is a multi-purpose room that overlooks the beautiful athletic greens with bleacher seating for roughly 500 spectators.
The walk to the athletic complex has gotten more treacherous with its maze-like configuration. “With the packed Upper School schedule, I only have an hour free in between my last class to sports,” says Summer student Isabel Bellitti. “And in this time, I have to eat lunch, get changed. But with the constructions and detours, it’ll take me over 15 minutes to get to the tennis court. Definitely disturbs my free time.”
Besides the South Campus renewal, some streets are also getting an upgrade. “This summer,” Ms. Gosalvez-Blanco said, “the Academy is also doing construction on the two crosswalks in Front Street.” These walkway renovations seem to be the most bothersome to students as many complain that the detours around the dusty construction sites are a nuisance and rather perilous. “Especially for the Access Exeter children,” says an Upper School student who wishes to remain anonymous, “these constructions are hazardous. They should try working on them in a quieter time, probably around August to September.”
In attempt to create secure surroundings, the Exeter faculty has been keen to ensure that students are aware before, when and after crossing these busy streets. “They are moving them a bit so they will be more safe,” said Ms. Gosalvez-Blanco when asked about the increased risks and safety protocols. “They will also install some signs before them so cars know when people are crossing ahead of time. Please remind students to be very careful when crossing all streets but especially Front Street.”
Renovations at Exeter are not uncommon at this time of the year. “Every summer we have some building renovations happening on campus,” said Ms. Gosalvez-Blanco. “Last year, the music building was closed all summer as they were expanding it.”