Progress on Montgomery's Newest Public School, Park Crossing High School


By Heather VacLav

While school is out for summer, crews at Montgomery's newest public school are working around the clock to finish in time for class in August. 

Park Crossing High School is tucked away off of Taylor Road. For the casual observer, it looks like one big construction zone, but inside the campus, the Principal Rocky Smith says it's coming together on time.

The 165,000 sq. ft. high school sit's on 54 acres in East Montgomery. About 400 9th and 10th graders start in this fall, then the school will build up to full capacity in two years with about  1,200 students.

"There's a very open feel to the campus, there's lots of visibility, not only in the amount of glass that's involved in the design of the building, but also the way the building is constructed," said Principal Smith during a media tour of the school.

Park Crossing's open design applies to everything from visual art studios, to the adminstrator and teacher offices, to the way the lockers are laid out in the center of the room at waste level, versus on the wall. Smith says every space has a purpose.

One of the more unique aspects of the school include two collaborative learning spaces that duel as a functioning stairwell to the second level, as well as multi-purpose spaces with stand-style seating.

In total, the structure cost nearly $34 million, with $27 million designated for construction. The school is funded primarily by federal stimulus money, but also funds from the City of Montgomery and Montgomery County. 

Currently, the school features mirrored east and west wings, with a total of 45 classrooms, eight science labs and four career tech spaces.

"The feel of being involved in a certain type of learning community, a very open, trusting environment, a college campus type feel, is really what's been built into the school," Smith said.

The campus feel is visual throughout, especially in the Libray and Media Center which is split into three areas: traditional libary setting, cyber cafe and outdoor terrace.

Students will also dine at a state of the art cafeteria with indoor and outdoor dining space, which also opens up to the Thunderbirds gymnasium.

But Principal Smith says building means nothing without teachers. He says a fresh batch of educators come from across Alabama and surrounding states to fascilitate the new learning environment.

"We're less lecture based and test taking driven and more driven around students pairing and grouping and sharing information and working together," Smith said.

From top to bottom Park Crossing is outlined with cutting edge technology, smart boards in every classroom, digital message boards throughout campus, but it also hails powerful safety precautions.

The school has seven Tornado safe rooms, three on each floor of the school, and another in the choir room. The rooms are surrounded by steel walls like a bank vault that can withstandi 250 mph winds and projected debris in the event of severe weather.

Smith feels like Park Crossing has the total package, and is not shy about trying to steer new students to the school, especially with open registration available next week, June 17th-June 20th.

"I know we have people that go to many different schools right now, but I want them to learn that Park Crossing is a successful school option for them and I want them to send their students here," Smith said.

Open registration for non-MPS students is Monday through Thursday at Wilson Elementary School. This applies for any student transferring from a private school, home school, or another school district.
Already, Park Crossing is being presented across Alabama as a model school for design. Even though the school has yet to open, it already has plans to build a third wing extension, to hold 1,600 students.



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