Sturgis: Not Much Of A Looker

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By: John Paradise
Published: 07/20/12

sturgis new building

A rendering of the new Sturgis West campus, now under construction.


Modern, polished, spiffy.

Three adjectives that would likely not come to mind to describe first impressions upon walking into either one of Sturgis Charter Public School's existing buildings.

Some of the carpets are stained. The floor tiles are dingy. The walls are patched and painted various colors.

There is not a lot of "wow factor" to the buildings that house the school now ranked as the top public school high school in Massachusetts by US News & World Report and Newsweek.

The school's original building, a former furniture store, stood vacant for six years and was considered one of the biggest eyesores on Hyannis's Main Street before the school began leasing it in 1998.

The school started small, cordoning off space for a handful of classrooms to serve the 162 students that attended Sturgis that first year. As enrollment grew, more classrooms were constructed inside the building.

"We added six or seven classrooms each year after that," said Eric Hieser, the school's executive director. "Because of this as-you-go approach, there is not as much cohesiveness in that building as there would have been if we would have done it all at once. But we were on a very tight budget."

The school's foundation, William Sturgis Friends of Education Foundation, finally purchased the building in 2004.

When the school decided to open a second campus last year to serve a growing body of students, it turned to another former furniture store as temporary space until it could build a new building on West Main Street. It will cost $10.5 million and will serve 400 students, compared to the $63.3 million recently approved for the new Monomoy Regional High School which will serve 700. The new Sturgis building is expected to be open in time for the coming school year.

That new building, called Sturgis West, will have smooth walls, fresh paint, and polished floors. Missing from the school, just as they are missing from Sturgis East, will be a full-service school cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, and sports fields.

"Why put money into building these facilities that will go unused for the majority of the day when they already exist elsewhere in the community?" Mr. Hieser asked. "We have done just fine utilizing the Cape Cod Community College auditorium, the Cotuit Center for the Arts Theater, the Hyannis Youth Center gyms, and sports fields throughout the area."

For lunch, the students bring their own or walk to one of the nearby eateries.

By not building a cafeteria, gym or sports fields, Sturgis is able to spend its money on teachers as a way to keep class sizes down and boost its curriculum offering, Mr. Hieser said.

Asked about this missing "wow factor" when one walks into Sturgis, Mr. Hieser said: "As long as our facilities are adequate and functional, that's fine. Do we want a clean facility? Of course. Do we want a facility where things aren't falling apart? Yes. Our students and faculty want to spiff this place up, and we'll be doing that. But our focus has been building a quality relationship between our students and teachers. You get that 'wow factor' when you sit down in a classroom and listen to the level of discourse."

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