In Georgia, elsewhere, schools designed for more than just educating students

Being good stewards of public funds requires vision for needs well into the future without ignoring what’s going on right now. This is challenging when it comes to new school buildings. Design needs have changed a lot since the era before the internet, when most city kids could walk to school in every grade.

“A school can no longer just be a school,” said Richard L. Porter, director of the new Master of Real Estate Development program in the School of Building Construction at Georgia Institution of Technology. “In the future it will have several uses throughout the day and the week into the weekend.”

This isn’t a brand new idea. About a decade ago, the American Architectural Foundation, in cooperation with Target Corp., hosted a forum called “School Design and Student Learning in the 21st Century” to look at changing educational practices and how design could enhance those. Here are some highlights from the report:

Recognize the paradigm change

Designers must respond more quickly to the ongoing changes in teaching and learning. The current models for school design are not evolving quickly enough, given what one participant called a “snowstorm of paradigm changes.” Flexibility must become a defining principle in school design.

Create new links to the national education reform effort

In the past, education reformers and designers have worked on separate but parallel tracks to improve our nation’s schools. What is missing is the creative link that allows both communities to join together to find ways to improve student achievement.

Build for a changing student population

There is a growing consensus among educators that American education should move toward universal prekindergarten programs. Architects must design new facilities to address the specific needs of these younger students. At the same time, the design community must recognize that an increasing percentage of K-12 students will be poor, members of minorities, or new immigrants and will have a much greater need for additional social services. Seamlessly co-locating these services in the design of new schools is one clear way to help close the achievement gap.

Design for the age wave

The impending retirement of millions of aging baby boomers in the next decade may dramatically expand the population of citizens who will want access to school facilities. Designing schools as community learning centers is one way to respond to the changing dynamics in this new era of lifelong learning.

Use technology to expand learning but recognize its limits

Students commonly have personal computers and other multimedia communication tools, and this shift is leading to a major redefinition of work spaces in school facilities. Even as technology gives students greater freedom to learn anytime and anywhere, technology has its limits. Schools still provide what students most need — access to teachers who provide wisdom and meaning in a rapidly changing world.

Design for health, safety and sustainability

The importance of daylight and indoor air quality are now givens for increasing student achievement. Other environmental factors, including lighting, sound, heating, and nontoxic materials, deserve greater attention.

Blur boundaries — design for community benefit

The traditionally rigid boundary between school and community is becoming blurred and will only become more so as technology increases the capacity of students to learn anytime and anywhere. There’s an opportunity to rebuild the connection between school and community and see the community and the larger environment as a valuable learning asset. School facilities serve multiple civic and social purposes beyond teaching and learning, and historically they have played a major role in the socialization of young people.

Involve citizen designers 

Authentic community engagement makes for a better school and a stronger community. Diversity matters — who is at the table in the design of new schools matters a great deal.

Develop a campaign for innovative design

There is a growing disconnect between what is known about good design and what is happening in the field. Although some districts are incorporating new concepts, reaching a broader constituency across the country continues to be difficult. A tension exists between the value of good design and the reality of just getting a school built.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Truck hit by train after getting stuck on tracks outside Vinings restaurant
Truck hit by train after getting stuck on tracks outside Vinings restaurant

A pickup truck was hit by a train outside a train-themed restaurant in Vinings Tuesday evening, police confirmed. The truck’s driver got his vehicle stuck on the railroad track in the parking lot of Orient Express at 2921 Paces Ferry Road, Cobb County police spokesman Wayne Delk told Orient Express is a Chinese, sushi and hibachi...
Carjacking in NW Atlanta prompts police chase that injures bicyclist
Carjacking in NW Atlanta prompts police chase that injures bicyclist

One person is in custody and one is on the run in northwest Atlanta after a police chase that left a bicyclist injured Tuesday night, authorities said. Two men are accused of carjacking someone near Spring Street and 10th Street, prompting a brief chase with police, Atlanta police spokeswoman Stephanie Brown said. At some point during the chase, a...
DeKalb voters complain of election issues as county certifies votes
DeKalb voters complain of election issues as county certifies votes

In less than 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon, the DeKalb County Elections Board certified its midterm election results, touted their hard work and listened to questions and complaints from residents about the election process. But hours after the meeting, a “technical glitch” prevented the certified numbers from being posted to the ...
Amazon headquarters decision: It’s not Atlanta
Amazon headquarters decision: It’s not Atlanta

In the end, Georgia didn’t convince Amazon that Atlanta is the best location for its second headquarters. Or even the second best. The Seattle-based tech giant made it official Tuesday, announcing that it will split its proposed $5 billion HQ2 project into two operations. One will be in New York’s Long Island City in Queens and the other...
Atlanta eyes regulation of booming electric scooter business
Atlanta eyes regulation of booming electric scooter business

To supporters, they’re an inventive, convenient way to get around the city without much of a carbon footprint. To critics, they’re critters that litter Atlanta’s sidewalks, posing a danger to pedestrians, drivers and the people who use them. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, those dockless scooters that popped up around Atlanta...
More Stories