Super duper Hooper renovations require flexibility and patience

Constructions+workers+pry+off+the+outer+layer+on+the+far+side+of+Hooper.
Back to Article
Back to Article

Super duper Hooper renovations require flexibility and patience

Constructions workers pry off the outer layer on the far side of Hooper.

Constructions workers pry off the outer layer on the far side of Hooper.

Nichola Monroe ('22)

Constructions workers pry off the outer layer on the far side of Hooper.

Nichola Monroe ('22)

Nichola Monroe ('22)

Constructions workers pry off the outer layer on the far side of Hooper.

The Webb students’ beloved Frederick R. Hooper Student Center, with its empty stage, crusty couches, half of a basketball court, and minute student store crammed into Mrs. Quick’s office, was completely hollowed out these past weeks.

First the textured windows were taken out, then the paneled wood floor was torn up, the entire far wall came down in one morning, followed by the removal of all the red roofing shingles. All that remained was the shell of the old Hooper. Though the clock on Hooper’s tower no longer runs, Hooper’s renovation progressed rapidly as the first quarter of the school year came to a close.

In the 80’s, Hooper was known to students as the “old gym,” since the current Les Perry gym had just been built. Later, it became a space for day students to store their books, sports clothes, and other items, as well as a spot to hang out with friends.

The original plan was to begin renovations in January 2019; however, delays due to Hooper’s designation as a historical building shifted the renovation dates to this summer. Renovations should be complete before the start of next school year, but, according to Paul Heath, a security guard, it may take longer than that due to unexpected setbacks such as dangerous materials and out-dated construction techniques.

All around Hooper, neon bulldozers with frightening limbs dig, grab, and lift various materials, and trundle along the uneven dirt ground. The Webb security team helps direct construction workers and the vehicles they operate to the correct entrances on campus from about 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. so that campus remains safe during the busy days at Webb. 

However, some hazardous materials have been found inside Hooper so far; construction workers found lead in the paint and asbestos in the window frames. For circumstances just like that, security guards instruct students to stay outside of the construction site. 

Mr. Heath said “The more they get into this [old] structure, the more they are likely to find some things that they have to change, because when they were built they were done differently than we require now.”

The impact of Hooper renovation was felt by both faculty members and students. Many staff members, such as Romana Quick, International Student Program Coordinator, Steve Wishek, Director of Athletics, and Nora Armbruster, Assistant Director of Athletics, previously had their offices in Hooper. 

With the renovation going on for a full year, they needed to be flexible and adapt to various inconvenient changes. For example, Mrs. Quick used to have her office in the Hooper side room, which was also the Webb student store. This year, she now shares an office with Cindy Jeantete, Attendance Coordinator, in the Fawcett Library’s textbook room. 

Mrs. Quick said, “I like my new office, I get to spend time with people I don’t normally see on a regular basis, like Dr. Dzula, Ms. Mani, Dr. Hubbard, Ms. Jeantete, so that’s been a good experience.”

Before the renovation, Hooper was a lively place on campus where day students could spend their free time. Therefore, the Hooper construction proposed a dilemma for many of them: they needed to find an alternative hang-out place on campus with a similar atmosphere. 

The Fawcett Library became one of the most popular options, as the library is often filled to the brim with buzzing students between classes, after lunch, and before afternoon activities. Compared to Hooper, the library has many advantages. For example, the inclusive atmosphere in the library seems to bring the Webb community closer together.

Liam Gerken (‘20), a WSC day student prefect, said, “[The] library is more like a collective space for everyone. Hooper was a place where certain groups congregated and hung out. There’s no exclusivity in the library as there was in Hooper.”

Jenna Hawkes (‘21), a VWS day student prefect, said, “Also, there are designated spaces to do work in the library.” 

The Hooper renovation has created many inconveniencies for the Webb community, however students, faculty, and staff embraced this change with a positive attitude. According to Janet Peddy, Director of Finance, Planning, and Operations, the next four to five months will be dedicated to working on Hooper’s exterior and interior work like electrical, plumbing, and air-conditioning installation. The renovation results are worth looking forward to, as the new Hooper will enhance the Webb experience for day students and boarders alike. 

Although Hooper is being gutted, not all of it will be lost. Ms. Peddy said, “There are places throughout the building where we’ve tried to preserve the best of the past and bring it into the future.”

Falling wall security camera footage courtesy to Paul Heath.