Since Middle School of the Arts first opened its doors in 1997, it had one goal: to provide an outstanding arts and academic program to every student. Even after building a new campus, this mission has remained the same.
“The best words I can use to describe [the old campus] is fun and with more freedom,” Kathy Tyler, guidance counselor, said. “We planned a theme for every year, and we would have festivals and school-wide field trips. Ms. Chesler’s class had a mural. One year the theme was the Middle Ages, and we all dressed up for it.”
In Bak’s early years, many teachers noticed how the students’ artistic abilities thrived outside of the classroom.
“The visual students painted a mural depicting the history of visual art. We would dance in the courtyard. Students would use trash cans for drums,” Martha Satinoff, dance teacher, said. “It was clear it was an arts school.”
In the beginning of Bak’s history, the number of classes were different as well. Students had a seven period schedule, instead of a block one like the school has today.
“There are more classes now. We started with only sixth and seventh grade and with less electives,” Tyler said. “French and Spanish were required for every student, and there were less art classes because it was a smaller-scale operation.”
Almost all teachers from Bak’s first few years cannot deny the difference of the atmosphere from then to now.
“Any time you start something brand new, there’s a camaraderie you’ll never have again,” Tyler said. “There was a spirit. There’s no way to go back and make it like that.”
In 2002, Dora Bak donated $1.5 million to the school in honor of her husband, Richard Bak. This money was used to build the auditorium, according to msoafoundation.org.
“There are not many of us left from the first couple of years,” Satinoff said. “It is natural that people come and go and leave their mark on Bak. I look back at the years with fond memories and look forward every day to being part of Bak’s present.”