An Update on the OES Campus Master Plan

By Vy Nguyen

From the new state-of-the-art Lower School to the exciting news of an extended and renovated gym, the OES campus has undergone major changes in the last five years. These establishments are a part of the OES Campus Master Plan, a physical demonstration of the school’s strategic plan.

Every 10 years, the OES admins and the board of trustees revisit the Campus Master Plan, a physical demonstration of the school’s strategic plan and big visions, and update it in accordance to OES’ constant changes and growth. This plan has existed since the 60s, with the last revision in 2012 and the next one due in 2022.

There are currently four phases in the Campus Masters Plan, two of them, as mentioned above, are the construction of a new Lower School and the renovation and extension of the gym. The other two are the building of an arts/ designing center and a new dormitory. The ultimate plan is to reorganize the campus, provide enough space to remove Farris Hall and create a series of terraced open areas stepping down the hill from the Upper School to the fields, establishing a central pedestrian green town square.

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OES 2012 Master Plan
(note: Morris House is to be demolished and turned into a parking space)

I have talked to Jon von Behren about the order of selection of which project to work on first. According to the Director of Facilities, below are the three main phases in the process:

  1. The design process consists of three parts, each consists of gradual development of the physical envisionment of the building. An architectural plan will be finished in the schematic design part, which is the last outlining step, and will generate enough information to exhibit to potential donors.
  2. Fundraising takes usually two or more years to collect enough money, therefore, this process takes place simultaneously alongside the completion of other main phases. Jon mentions that “if it’s just a matter of planning the projects [and not raising money], the projects can be completed a lot faster”.
  • When a budget is estimated, the Fundraising Feasibility Study will be conducted in which OES hires another company to anonymously contact important people in the community who have the financial ability to help our school. With the discussions collected, the company will then evaluate how much money is likely to be raised. OES admins then assess if the desired budget and the interest align; if the answer is yes, they will begin to dive deeper into the design process.
  • For the construction phase to get underway, the administration presents to the board of trustees their fundraising targets by time and proceeds to raise money according to those goals. When it seems everything is consistently on track and the board has enough time to process the plan, the administration is given a pass to move ahead.
  1. The construction process.


There have been echoes of confusion from students about the priority of projects, and below are some of the reasons why one may be picked before another, according to Jon:

  1. For the LS and the new gym, both programs are visibly established and “dynamic”. The urgency of new facilities for these departments are obvious and they also affect the most amount of students compared to the other two projects. In addition, there had already been concrete visions of the design of these projects, which made it less challenging to draw financial resources and seek approval from the board.
  • It is undeniable that there is an obvious increasing need for a new Arts and Designing Center or at least a more established location for the performing arts department; the Great Hall is not the most artistic space for plays and the theater lab is smaller than a lot of current classrooms. Compared to other schools of the same league, or our rival Catlin Gabel which has both an auditorium and a black box theater, OES’ restrictive theater facility will not satisfy the needs of this ever-growing program.
  • There are still a lot of calculations and envisionment, but what is already in plan for the Center is that it will at least include an auditorium and everything that is in EC3 right now.
  • For the reconstruction of the dorm, it is also observed that the dorm’s facility is not in the best condition given having not undergone any major reconstruction since 1964.
  • A big challenge for the administration is to figure out how to continue the dorm program while the buildings are being built and the number of buildings in line with the growth of the dorm program. The dorm is also a “different kind of project to the other projects in the financial perspective”.
  • In the meantime, OES admins have been experimenting with the dorm office, in which they opened up the dorm kitchen to have a bigger social place and a better cooking place.


Things change, programs change, and educations change. What is shown on the blueprint may not end up being accomplished, you may even graduate before the two currently-brainstormed projects are brought to reality. However, there is no need to get upset. Let us celebrate the forthcoming construction of our new gym and you can always assure yourself that your needs will be attended to and considered by the administration.