Academic Center

Jan. 26, 2016

This morning marked the Student Opening of the Upper School Academic Center after the 18 month renovation and expansion of the Avery Barras Library. Students, faculty, trustees and administrators gathered to commemorate the opening with remarks by Head of Campus, Dr. David Flocco, Headmaster, Thomas Nammack and Head of Libraries, Jill Maza to thank those involved and share the vision statements for the new space. The official dedication of the space will take place on Homecoming weekend, October 29, 2016.

Projects like this don’t simply “happen”. They result from a collective effort…an effort born out of a vision that manifested itself in what we celebrate today – a state-of-the-art, high tech, flexible and collaborative workspace designed with YOU at the center. Head of Upper School, David Flocco, P ’18, ’22, ’25, ‘26

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called an “Academic Center?”

The term “academic center” highlights the vision that the space will be a “hub” of learning, providing more than the functions of a traditional library, such as access to books and other materials. Based on the “learning commons” model popularly adopted for modern libraries, the Academic Center will be a dynamic space designed to promote learning, inquiry and collaboration.

Why does the Upper School need an Academic Center?

The Upper School is a “masterpiece of sixties architecture,” with offices, classrooms and common spaces spread far and wide and space at a premium. The Academic Center will provide a physical heart to the school. It will serve as a community gathering space where teachers and students can purposefully and serendipitously join together to learn, research, collaborate, study, and innovate. As stated in the MKA mission, the school aims to develop independent and autonomous learners, and the design of the new Academic Center reflects that philosophy by providing spaces and easily accessible resources that will support and inspire students to become those learners.

When will the Academic Center open?

The Academic Center will house the library, the technology center, the learning lab and the school archives. It will also provide many different spaces for teaching and learning: a glass-walled classroom, three small group study rooms, a large quiet study area, and flexible seating, both at tables and in lounge chairs. Each group space is equipped with flat screens and apple TVs, whiteboards and tackable walls for brainstorming and sharing ideas. Students and teachers will be able to select the space that best suits their needs at a given time for a specific learning purpose. All furniture, including shelving, will be fitted with casters to facilitate the space’s continued transformation as needs evolve. The Academic Center will seat up to 170 students and will be over 9,000 square feet.

What are the archives?

The Academic Center provides an excellent opportunity for the school’s archive to become a living, breathing accessible collection. MKA is currently working with the NJ Historical Commission to curate MKA’s archival materials. Items such as letters, photos, old yearbooks and memorabilia will be housed in the climate-controlled archive. Not only will this space help preserve MKA’s history for years to come, but it will help it “come to life” and render it accessible to the school community for the first time. In addition, the space will house two work stations for those wishing to utilize the collection.

Will we still have books in the Academic Center?

Yes, we will still have books in the Academic Center. The print collection will be roughly the same size as the current collection. Though we have a robust and constantly evolving digital collection of eBooks, audio books and subscription databases, print books still play an important role in our curricular program. Our students rely on the unique information still sometimes only published in print, and many students still prefer to do both recreational and research reading in print, even when digital versions are available.

What outdoor spaces will accompany the new Academic Center?

The exterior rear of the Academic Center will house an amphitheater, both for casual student use and class use, providing vital access to outdoor space for the Upper School community. The “green roof” of the Academic Center will be the centerpiece of MKA’s sustainability efforts and will house an outdoor classroom.

How is sustainability being considered in the construction of the Academic Center?

MKA is working toward LEED certification of the new Academic Center. “LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.” ( In order to achieve LEED certification, the project will earn points for sustainable features ranging from the type of wood used in the circulation desk construction to the green roof to the type of lights installed throughout the space. As a result, the Academic Center will serve to educate the community about environmentally-friendly practices.

What is a green roof?

A green roof is defined as a roof surface covered in several waterproof and insulation layers, soil medium, and planted with vegetation. Once installed, green roofs have been known to provide a variety of benefits to the community including improving air quality, energy efficiency, and storm water abatement. With proper safety measures and supervision, green roofs may also provide space for students to have hands on inquiry-based experiences.The hands-on learning inspired by MKA’s green roof could enhance current gardening curricular partnerships, such as the new Pre-K/ third grade project and the interdisciplinary fifth grade science/ eighth grade history collaboration. Connections are also ripe in the seventh grade plant unit and in Upper School Biology and Environmental Science classes. In addition, students conducting independent science research might use the green roof as a new platform for inquiry. Student clubs—the Green Group at the Middle School and the Environmental Action Group at the Upper School—could play an active role in the designing and planning of a green roof as well as in its planting and upkeep.

How will the entire MKA community (Pre-K through 12) benefit from the Academic Center?

Though physically located on the Upper School campus, the Academic Center will serve the entire MKA community in many ways. First, the work and innovation that will occur within its walls will serve as a model for the type of increasingly independent learning we want to inspire in students tri-campus. Further, as the space will serve as a community crossroads and gathering space, there will be frequent opportunity for the Primary and Middle School communities to take advantage of programming offered in the space. One can only imagine the opportunities that could be provided for Primary and Middle School visits to use unique aspects of the space – from a Pre-K/third grade green roof gardening trip to a Middle School theatre outdoor amphitheater visit.

Where can I read more about Learning Commons?

Academic Center News


In the Press



For more information about the Academic Center at MKA, contact Tom Nammack, Headmaster, at 973-509-7935 or

If you'd like to support Future Forward: The Campaign for MKA, contact Laela Perkins, Director of Development, at 973-509-7940.