The School Board and administration of the Virginia School District #706 asked that a comprehensive review of its facilities be conducted through the formulation of a community-based Task Force Committee charged with the responsibility to, “…review all data related to the current conditions of our facilities, and how well they are meeting the educational needs of our growing student population…” It further asked that, through a process of collaboration, the Task Force “…develop a set of recommendations for Board consideration that ensures the cost efficient and educational effectiveness of all school facilities well into the future…” The work of the Task Force was facilitated by representatives from ATS&R Planners/Architects/Engineers.
Steps taken to complete this task included conducting i) a thorough review of the existing scheduling practices currently being used in each of the school buildings, ii) an engineering review of critical infrastructure systems in each facility, iii) interviews with students, staff and administrators in each building, and by commissioning iv) an analysis of enrollment trends over the next five (5) years. This information was shared with the Task Force Committee in a series of six (6) meetings conducted between November 2012 and February 2013.
The sixth meeting of the Space Utilization Committee (over 30 participants were in attendance) was held on Wednesday, February 6th. The meeting began with a brief review of the Committee’s task to, “…review all data related to the current conditions of our facilities, and how well they are meeting the educational needs of our growing student population…” It further asked that, through a process of collaboration, the Task Force “…develop a set of recommendations for Board consideration that ensures the cost efficient and educational effectiveness of all school facilities well into the future…” A brief presentation was given that included information related to the three (3) preferred options (out of nine options originally evaluated by the Task Force) for facility modifications and additions, [as noted below] associated costs for each, and a summary of the survey taken by all Committee members.
The agenda for the sixth and final meeting included two (2) small group activities. The first activity asked that each group [note: the Committee members present were divided into four (4) small groups] review the three (3) preferred facility options and conduct a +/delta on each option. Following the analysis in small group, each group reported back to the large group. Below are the composite results.
Option 4: Reconfigure grade levels at Parkview into a Grade 1-4 facility. Construct a new facility on an undetermined site for a primary center incorporating the Head Start, Early Childhood (EC) and Kindergarten programs.
The positive attributes of this Option that were cited by the small group planning teams included:
- A ‘new’ primary learning center would be a good ‘draw’ into our schools.
- The overall plan created at least three (3) flex spaces at Parkview Learning Center that could beused for further expansion and/or to create different kinds of learning spaces.
- A grades 1-4 school would be a good learning environment.
- The new school would be a ‘one of a kind’ in this region.
- All of our youngest learners (including Head Start) would be in the same location.
- There may be the possibility of receiving federal grant monies in support of this project.
- This proposal creates the most new space for the Early Childhood program.
- Designing something new provides for easy ‘customization’ of space.
The negative attributes of this Option that were cited by the small group planning teams included:
- Combining grade 4 with grades 1-3.
- This option was the most expensive.
- The new location for the primary learning center had not been determined.
- Additional bussing would be needed.
- There would be a need for additional administration and support staff resulting in additional operating costs.
- Kids would need to change schools between kindergarten and grade 1.
- This proposal leaves the district with more instructional space than is needed.
- The investment in this option is too costly when considering that Head Start is not a public
- Constructing a new facility when we already have enough space would be hard to explain to the
- This is not an immediate solution to the space needs at Parkview.
- There is no middle school concept in this option; the other two (2) options both provide for a 6-8 middle school.
- Parkview is designed for younger students. Adding fourth grade may not be a good ‘fit.’
- There are too many changes of buildings for students.
Option 5: Reconfigure grade levels at Parkview into an EC/Kindergarten/Grades 1-2 facility. Roosevelt would become a grades 3-5 school. Some modification of existing rooms would be needed. The high school building would become a middle school for grades 6-8 and a 9-12 high school.
The positive attributes of this Option cited by the small group planning teams included:
- This is the most cost efficient of the three (3) Options.
- We create a middle school concept for students in grades 5-8.
- Early Childhood and Kindergarten students remain in the same building and are co-located with
- This plan can serve as a ‘fore-runner’ to Option 6.
- No additional administration and/or support staff would be needed for this option.
- This option can be implemented immediately.
- There will be no additional costs for transportation (when compared to Option 4).
- It is the best utilization of existing space.
The negative attributes of this Option cited by the small group planning teams included:
- The Head Start Program does not co-locate with the Early Childhood Program.
- The preliminary space concepts do not provide adequate space for a growing Early Childhood Program.
- There are no ‘flex’ classrooms at Parkview.
- Sixth graders sharing space with senior high students could be problematic unless classrooms are located in a ‘self-contained’ area.
- Obtaining properly licensed teachers may be difficult.
- Music and art continue to be on a cart.
- This appears to be a ‘temporary’ solution; not long term.
- This solution will need public support for the Head Start program.
Option 6: Construct an addition and reconfigure grade levels at Parkview into a Head Start/EC/Kindergarten/Grades 1-2 facility. Some modification of existing rooms would be needed. Roosevelt would become a grade 3-5 school. The high school building would become a middle school for grades 6-8 and a 9-12 high school.
The positive attributes of this Option that were cited by the small group planning teams included:
- The Head Start Program is co-located with our Early Childhood program and our Kindergarten through grade 2 program.
- There are a sufficient number of ‘flex’ rooms to accommodate future growth or the use of instructional space for other purposes.
- We have new space.
- The grade reconfigurations are good.
- There are no new costs for transportation.
- The possibility of obtaining some federal funding in support of this project does exist.
- This is a good investment in our Parkview Learning Center.
The negative attributes of this Option that were cited by the small group planning teams included:
- When compared to Option 5, the costs are much greater.
- Costs associated with the relocation of the Head Start program may become the public’s responsibility while the program is not a part of the public school system.
- We are adding square footage to Parkview Learning Center yet still have available space at James Madison if the lease is terminated.
- Time to implement this option is relatively long and makes it difficult to see how the immediate crowding needs at Parkview are addressed; however, Option 5 (which could be for the immediate need) does feed into Option 6.
- A question will remain as to whether or not we will be facing a long-term space problem in our high school.
Each Committee member was given a set of three (3) ‘stickers.’ They were asked to place their stickers on the Options (they had been posted in large print at the front of the room) they preferred. The stickers had point values of ‘1’ ‘2’ and ‘3’ (with ‘3’ being the most preferred). The Options were rated as follows:Option 4- 8 points (3rd preferred option)
Option 5- 65 points (2nd preferred option)
Option 6- 119 points (Most preferred option)
It can be seen the preferred Option that the Committee believes the Board should pursue is Option 6. Further, based upon a discussion following the ranking, the Committee’s wishes that the Board’s consideration be as follows:
Recommendation: The Facilities Task Force Committee recognizes the Board’s responsibility is to make decisions that it believes to be in the best interest of the school district, community and its children. To assist the board with this responsibility, the Facilities Task Force Committee has examined all available information related to the need for additional space in our schools. Out of that examination, the Committee is providing the Board with several options that it might consider in addressing critical space and instructional inadequacies. While more than one Option is presented for Board consideration, the Facilities Task Force believes that the Board should develop and implement a Plan that considers, “…constructing an addition(s) onto Parkview Learning Center for the purpose of creating a Primary Learning Center for children enrolled in Head Start and our Early Childhood programs and that said programs are co-located at Parkview with grades K-2…” Further, the Task Force believes the Plan should, “…relocate grade 3 students to Roosevelt and create a middle school program for grades 6-8 at Virginia High School with facilities modifications made to both Roosevelt and the High School to support these new grade configurations…”
The Committee Members were then asked to reflect upon two questions that when answered, would serve as a guide to the successful implementation of a Plan. Those questions were:
- To better ensure a successful outcome in addressing critical space needs for the Virginia public schools, we recommend that the board…
- To better ensure our schools meet the educational needs of the 21st century learner, we recommend the board consider facility upgrades that include…
Prior to holding a discussion in their small groups, each committee member was asked to write
his/her own responses to these two questions. The small groups were then instructed to take turns sharing their individual thoughts. Finally, the small groups were tasked to develop a consensus on two (2) recommendations from each question. Below are the composite results of those questions; reported back to the full Committee. They are intended to represent the best ‘collective’ thoughts of the Task Force and a fulfillment of their purpose to, “…develop a set of recommendations for Board consideration that ensures the cost efficient and educational effectiveness of all school facilities well into the future…”
Task Force Recommendations to the School Board
We, the members of the community-based Facility Task Force ask that the Board, in moving forward in its decision to address the need for additional instructional space to accommodate our growing student population, consider:
- Implementing a bond levy campaign as soon as possible in order to address the critical and immediate space needs at Parkview Learning Center and Roosevelt.
- Conducting a comprehensive communications campaign throughout our community. This campaign should utilize a variety of communication channels such as our newspaper The Mesabi Daily News, the district website, and holding public meetings designed to provide opportunities for stakeholder feedback. Furthermore, the campaign should contain information related to:
- Funding alternatives
- Project Costs
- Benefits to students and the community
- Open Enrollment
- Future of James Madison
- Researching, exploring and examining all potential funding options that might be available to the district to help off-set costs to the community.
- Carrying out a cost/benefit analysis designed to ensure the community understands ‘how much’ the project will cost and ‘just what’ the additional funding will be used for.
Furthermore, we, the members of the community-based Facility Task Force ask that the Board, in planning and preparing facility modifications and/or additions that will better meet the changing needs of the 21st Century learner, consider:
- Exploring various possible other expansion options to Parkview Learning Center to ensure the most effective use of existing space.
- Incorporating and providing appropriate space for lunchroom/eating areas for students, space dedicated to student performances, learning spaces, and additional opportunities for collaborative activities.
- Making every effort to keep the Early Childhood and Kindergarten programs co-located and, ideally, bringing the Head Start Program onto the same site. Further, the board should make every effort to ensure the space is appropriately designed, adequately sized and safe for students.
- Creating space at Virginia High School where students can informally gather to socialize, and academically collaborate. This space should be a technologically ‘enriched’ area that enables students to access the internet for academic purposes.
- Providing opportunities for teachers, students and administrators to assist in developing the facilities design concepts for the kind and quality of 21st Century learning that is taking place in our schools.
- Upgrading and improving the technology in our schools.
Facilitators’ Comments: The analyses of the final three options, when shared by each of the small groups, demonstrated that there was a high level of consensus related to both the positive attributes of each Option as well as the negative attributes. Keeping the EC and Kindergarten programs at a co- located site was very important. There was also much support for the reconfiguration of grade levels, opening the doors to the creation of a middle school program. Cost was also agreed by the majority to be of great concern, and probably an overriding factor in the ranking of the most costly option (Option 4) as the lowest. Concern over the community’s perception of the ‘future’ of James Madison continued to be expressed in a variety of ways. The final set of recommendations developed by the Task Force represent a ‘pathway to success’ for the Board, should it choose to implement such a plan.
The fifth meeting of the Space Utilization Committee was held on Wednesday, January 23rd. The results of the survey were reviewed by ATS&R facilitators as well as cost estimates related to each of the nine (9) options for facility renewal the Committee was asked to review. The highlights of these presentations can be found on the District website. Throughout the presentation, opportunities were provided for Committee members to respond to findings. Below are the recorded Committee comments.
Virginia Public Schools’ Space Utilization and Educational Planning
Conducted by ATS&R
Committee Responses to Survey Outcomes and Option Cost Analyses
v The responses to the question related to the security of our facilities were a surprise. There seems to be enough in place.
v The community isn’t really informed; as a district, we don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the ‘negatives’ of our facilities.
v Community engagement is a challenge. Are we faced with a problem of apathy?
v We really didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the alternative of constructing a new high school.
v The public must understand the James Madison School before deciding its fate.
- How is it being used?
- Could a new third story addition be constructed on this site? [Note: The facilitator responded that major structural reinforcing would need to be performed- from the roof to the foundations- and that it is not financially practical; also adding that student capacity via a building addition is not recommended since the site is currently below Minnesota of Education recommended acres.]
- Why was it able to hold three (3) grades in the past and cannot now? [Note: It was noted that a lesser number of sections were housed at the time James Madison was in use and additional federally mandated programs now needed take away from formerly utilized classroom space.]
v Additions to Parkview should also take into consideration the need for additional parking space.
v How does the cost of new facilities now compare to the costs of facilities 20 years ago? (i.e. Parkview) If costs increase by 4% annually, would it be more beneficial to construct new rather than upgrade current facilities?
v There are a lot of upgrades that need to be done at Roosevelt and VHS based upon ATSR analyses. Costs for those upgrades were not included in costs associated with the projected Options costs and need to be considered in any final analysis.
v The current utility costs of ~$1.50/sq. ft. at Roosevelt and VHS are comparable to industry averages.
v When considering the possible conversion of James Madison into a district utilized site, the loss of revenue from the current lease should be considered.
v It is important that accurate and appropriate costs of a future project must be given to the community.
v Can we receive/utilize other funding sources to help off-set the costs of construction? (i.e. Head Start)
v If a decision is made to construct ‘new’ versus renovating ‘old’; the sell to the community will be very difficult.
v We need to have an immediate solution to address the overcrowding at Parkview as soon as next year.
v We need to have additional information regarding the ‘timelines’ of implementing the preferred option.
Facilitator’s Comments: The Committee was provided an opportunity to respond to the survey results. Based both upon the comments noted above, as well as the feedback given at the meeting, Committee members felt that there were no real surprises in the results. Specifically related to the ‘top three (3)’ facility options, the Committee accepted those results. However, there appears to be several overriding issues that remain as possible obstacles to the Committee; hindering the ability of the Committee to forward a ‘clear’ set of final recommendations to the Board. Those issues are, i) the immediate ‘fate’ of James Madison and ii) the long-range ‘fate’ of Roosevelt and VHS.
The ‘fate’ of James Madison: There appears to be an interest by some Committee members to keep James Madison in the planning process. Site size, the facility’s capability of housing more than two (2) grade levels, the loss of revenue to the district for leasing this space, and increased costs associated with opening up a two (2) grade school on a new/separate site were all viewed to be ‘negatives’ by the facilitators. However, in spite of the facilitator’s analysis that suggested James Madison was not an appropriate site to repurpose for district use; vocalized concern by some Committee members appears to keep the future of this facility in question. Based upon the discussions to date on this topic, it was suggested by the facilitator that part of the set of recommendations forwarded to the Board might include a related to resolving the future of James Madison. A recommendation related to James Madison might look as follows: “….the board should clarify to the public, the current use of James Madison, its revenue and the value of this revenue to the district. Further the Board, should it decide not to incorporate the use of James Madison in future district plans, should develop and communicate to the public a clear rationale for its decision….”
The long term ‘fate’ of VHS and Roosevelt: There continued to be some question related to just ‘when’ does reinvestment in upgrades at VHS and Roosevelt no-longer make economic sense and a new building(s) becomes more economically feasible. It was agreed that the costs of constructing a new senior high school, based upon current industry standards, would be included at the end of these minutes.
Finally, there were three items the Committee asked to have included in meeting notes in order to help them make a final determination of the Options which they believe are the best Options for the board to consider.
v Item 1: The Committee sought information related to the costs associated with building a new senior high school today vs. fifteen (15) years from now. The costs shown below are a comparison of industry standard construction costs today. A 4% annual inflation rate is applied to constructing a new senior high school fifteen (15) years from now.
v Item 2: The Committee sought information related to the resolution of the immediate space shortages at Parkview. Two options that ‘solve’ the immediate need for space at Parkview beginning next year are shown below.
v Item 3: The Committee sought information related to a timeline for the preferred options. Shown below is information related to possible timelines.
The sixth and final meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 6th. At that meeting, a final set of recommendations will be developed by the Committee for Board consideration. Meeting time will be spent in both small group and large group activities. The first part of the meeting will involve Committee members conducting a ‘plus/delta’ analysis of the top three options and establishing a Committee ‘consensus’ on ranking the options. The second part of the meeting will be the generation of a complete set of recommendations for consideration by the Board. These recommendations will take into consideration all of the work of the Committee.
Item 1: New High School
The committee requested what a new high school would look like in terms of size, capacity, and cost. The committee requested a comparison for constructing a new high school over the next few years versus fifteen years projected into the future. The following is information prepared by ATS&R in response to the requests:
v Capacity of a new high school: 1,000 to 1,100 students
v Size of a new high school: approximately 255,000 square feet
v New High School Project Cost Estimate if bid in 2015:
- 255,000 square feet (sf) x $183.17/sf = $46.7M
- Unknown Site Conditions $ .5M
- Inflation to bid 2015 $ 3.8M
Construction Cost Subtotal $51.0M
- Development Costs $ 3.4M
- Furniture/Fixtures/Equipment $ 2.0M
- Technology Equipment $ 2.0M
- Special Consultant Services $ 0.3M
- Survey / Soil Borings / Permits $ 0.7M
- Site Purchase $ 1.3M
- Off-Site Utilities $ 1.0M
- Project Contingency @ 5% $ 3.1M
- Total Project Cost Estimate $64.8M (Range of $62 to $66 million) *
*Note: There was some discussion by Committee members suggesting that costs associated with the construction of a new high school now when compared to construction fifteen (15) years from now may have an impact on decisions moving forward; potentially influencing decision makers to take such action sooner rather than later. Making such a comparison however, is extremely difficult at best and realistically impossible to do. While costs for construction have historically trended to increase by approximately 4% annually, other factors that will influence the costs of construction to the community are less easy to project. Factors such as the value of properties in Virginia, the growth in the number of homes and the size and number of industries in the community all will impact the actual cost to community taxpayers. Equally important will be the design of the facility itself; determined not only by the number of students enrolled but also by the nature of the curriculum and educational delivery system in place in the future. It is for this reason that making such a projection does not add value to our current discussion.
v In addition to the cost of a new high school, demolition of portions of the existing high school must be considered. Over 200,000 square feet of the combined Roosevelt / High School 432,000 square foot building would be demolished. New walls would be constructed in selected areas to fully enclose the remaining building. Mechanical, electrical, and roofing systems would be reconfigured to refit the remaining building area. The project cost for demolition/reconstruction of this work would total approximately $5 to $6 million.
v The total project cost for a new high school and the demolition/reconstruction of the existing building would be approximately $67 to $72 million.
Item 2: Immediate Solution for Next Year
v Based on the demographics enrollment report prepared by SchoolFinances.com, the following elementary sections are forecasted:
- Kindergarten: 8 sections
- 1st Grade: 8 sections
- 2nd Grade: 6 sections
- 3rd Grade: 5 sections
- 4th Grade: 5 sections
- 5th Grade: 5 sections
- 6th Grade: 4 sections
v An option for an immediate solution for next year is described as Scenario A:
- Parkview / Roosevelt / High School:
- Increase class size and operate the same as currently for the 2012/13 school year.
- James Madison:
- Continue the lease arrangement.
v Another option for an immediate solution for next year is described as Scenario B:
- Parkview Learning Center:
- Convert five (5) grade classrooms and the DCD room into four (4) Kindergarten rooms so there is a total of eight (8) Kindergarten rooms appropriately-sized at the school. Enrollment projections show that eight (8) Kindergarten rooms will be needed for 2013/14 (eight (8) will be needed for the 5-year period). This moderate remodeling work can be accomplished during summer 2013.
- Locate the DCD room into the small Kindergarten room across the hall from the library. There is no remodeling work for this area; the program can be moved during summer 2013.
- Relocate Early Childhood space into the original location for two (2) rooms plus the parent room and early childhood storage. There is no remodeling work for this area; the program can be moved during summer 2013.
- Relocate Reading/Science and EBD/LD to the center rooms where Kindergarten and Early Childhood #1 are currently located. This minimal remodeling work can be accomplished during summer 2013.
- The two (2) rooms vacated by Reading/Science and EBD/LD will now become two (2) grade classrooms. There is no remodeling work for these areas; the program can be moved during summer 2013.
- Move music “on-a-cart” into the space used by Early Childhood #2. There is no remodeling work for this area; the program can be moved during summer 2013.
- After the reconfiguration is complete, fifteen (15) grade classrooms are provided for grades 1 and 2. Enrollment projections show that fourteen (14) grade rooms will be needed for 2013/14 (fifteen (15) will be needed for the 5-year period). Remodel Roosevelt to accommodate the five (5) sections of 3rd grade.
- Convert the current band uniform room into a grade classroom. This moderate remodeling work can be accomplished during summer 2013.
- Convert the Annex study hall into three (3) to four (4) grade classrooms. This moderate remodeling work can be accomplished summer 2013.
- After the remodeling is complete, nineteen (19) to twenty (20) grade classrooms are provided for grades 3 through 6. Enrollment projections show that nineteen (19) grade rooms will be needed for 2013/14 (Twenty-two (22) will be needed for the 5-year period).
- High School:
- The Annex study hall would temporarily be converted to Roosevelt classrooms for the short-term.
- James Madison:
- Continue the lease arrangement.
Item 3: Timelines for the preferred options
v The following schedule provides possible timelines of major milestones for the preferred options and the 2013 immediate solution referenced by the Committee:
Possible Milestones for Master Plan Implementation
Possible Milestones for 2013 Immediate Solution Implementation (Scenario B)
– February 25, 2013 –
receives Master Plan Report
– March/April 2013 –
School Board communications
continue with Community
– March 2013 –
approves solution for 2013
– May 2013 –
– April through May 2013 –
prepared for bids for 2013 work
– June through September 2013 –
Minnesota Department of Education Review & Comment document
(60 days + 20 days to publish)
– June through August 2013 –
Commences for 2013 solution
– August/October 2013 –
School Board communications
continue with Community
– September 2013 –
School Year 2013/14 starts
– Nov./Dec. 2013 or March/April 2014 –
Bond Referendum Dates
– 6 to 8 months –
for approved projects
– 12 to 14 months –
Construction of approved projects
– July/October 2015 –
Owner Occupancy of approved projects
(based on Nov./Dec. 2013 Ref. Date)
– October 2015/February 2016 –
Owner Occupancy of approved projects
(based on March/April 2014 Ref. Date)
The fourth meeting of the Space Utilization Committee was held on Wednesday, January 9th. It began with a review of the annual utility costs at Parkview, Roosevelt/High School, and James Madison. It was noted that the District has operations well in control and any additional cost savings would not have a major impact on future planning and decision-making regarding usage of facilities. Parkview was noted as having a higher annual operating cost, and this should be further investigated.
Next, the Minnesota Department of Education Facilities Guidelines was reviewed relative to recommended square footage per student ratios. This information serves as a tool in evaluating the facilities options.
What followed was a comprehensive presentation of a set of nine (9) options for Task Force members to consider. The options had been developed by the Task Force facilitator from ATS&R and based upon the previous work of the committee, interviews of students, faculty and administrators of the Virginia Public Schools and findings of the facility review conducted by ATS&R engineers.
Following the presentation of the options, the Committee was divided into five small working groups. Each group was responsible for reviewing two (2) of the nine (9) options and asked to analyze each and identify the positive and negative attributes of the options reviewed. Several groups also reviewed the secondary facility options for reconfiguration of space. These analyses were then reported back to the full Committee. The results of the analysis for each option are shown below.
The third meeting began with a comprehensive presentation of the findings from the facility ‘walk-throughs’ conducted by engineers and architects from ATS&R. A complete draft set of ‘bulleted’ findings was passed out to Task Force Members. Those findings were highlighted in the presentation by the facilitators. Following this presentation, Task Force members were asked to identify what they believed to be some of the most important ‘takeaways’ from the information provided. Below are the items listed by Task Force members.
Virginia Public Schools’ Space Utilization and Educational Planning
Conducted by ATS&R
Quick Takeaways: Facility Conditions
- Based upon the findings presented, it does not appear that we need a new senior high school because of architectural/mechanical/electrical/technology/site conditions.
- All of our current buildings are in a ‘useable’ condition.
- Our schools are well maintained; facility and maintenance staff have done a great job keeping our buildings updated.
- If a decision is made to keep our current buildings in use, they will need to be upgraded.
- We do have some immediate upgrades that should be addressed in the short-term future.
- We need to be looking at operating costs for our current buildings and compare them with costs associated with new buildings.
- Our current parking situation at the high school is very inadequate.
The full set of draft findings was handed out to Task Force members. They were encouraged to review them thoroughly prior to the next meeting.
Facilitators Comments: The identification of needs by the engineers was comprehensive and will play an important role both for the Task Force as well as the Board as decisions are made relative to addressing the facility needs of the District. Decisions will need to be made, (regardless of decisions related to the need of building expansion to accommodate growing student enrollments) in how the Board might want to proceed to ameliorate those needs.
Following the update provided to the Task Force regarding the condition of the buildings, the Task Force was given a brief review of 21st Century education and what facilities that support education might look like. Task Force members were then divided into six (6) small work teams; each given a responsibility to ‘construct’ what a 21st Century workspace might look like in the Virginia Public Schools. Each group was assigned a unique work space and asked to identify the ‘essential elements’ that would define their space. Below are the various workspaces and the unique qualities of each.
Group 1: 21st Century learning will require teachers to be constantly upgrading their skills to address the growing knowledge about how students learn as well as the associated changes in technology that are redefining the classroom. On-going, just in time, professional development will be a necessity in the school environment. Professional development areas will become an integral part of school design. One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space elements in a professional development area. Below are those elements.
- Large central gathering area that is furnished with trapezoidal tables capable of being put together in a variety of ways for small group discussions and collaboration
- ‘Outside’ offices of various sizes that have the capability of handling group sizes between 4 and 10 people. These spaces must be wireless
- Along three of the walls, work cubicles (wireless access) for individual staff work
- Technology such as SmartBoards and projectors
- Kitchenette and copier/work space
Group 2: 21st Century learning will recognize that students learn in a variety of ways and that every effort should be made to ‘shape’ instruction around the many ways students learn. Instructional spaces will need to be designed in a way that provides flexibility for both the teacher and the student. Small group discussions, teacher lecture, demonstrations and hands-on activities will all be a part of daily planning. One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space elements in a room defined to be an ‘individualized learning center.’ Below are those space elements.
- Teacher observation station for monitoring student work
- Quiet areas with lots of glass and natural light
- Comfortable, functional workspaces that are ‘beverage’ friendly
- Technology stations
- Independent and small group work spaces for collaborative learning
- Drafting and high table furniture in some of the work spaces
- A place for art and other project display areas
Group 3: 21st Century learning will provide greater opportunities for students to share their work with fellow students as well as parents and mentors. Places for student work to be ‘on display’ will also become increasingly important; helping to create an environment of excellence for all to see. One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space in an area that was called a ‘performance hall.’ Below are those elements.
- A room that can be used for ‘multiple’ purposes such as performances, demonstrations, large group presentations
- ‘Stadium’ style seating
- Space that is adaptable for small group and larger group activities
- Risers that can accommodate up to 60 students
- ‘Plateau’ classrooms surrounding the performance area
- Moveable panel walls that can combine into a single space (glass to provide for natural light
Group 4: 21st Century learning will require classrooms to be more ‘engaging’ than in the past. The traditional classroom configuration of desks lined up in rows facing the teacher/lecturer will be replaced by classroom space that has the flexibility to provide for collaborative team planning between and among students. One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space elements for an ‘engaging’ classroom. Below are those elements.
- Places for ‘independent’ learning to take place
- A place designed/furnished for collaborative learning activities
- Hands on activity centers
- A tech room where videos can be produced and projects worked on
- Storage for students and teachers work
Group 5: 21st Century learning will recognize that students increasingly want to find places where they can meet with friends and learn in a collaborative and cooperative manner. Settings will need to be provided that encourages team work, and at the same time be respectful of those who simply want to work on their own- while being among their peers. One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space elements in a student ‘union.’
- Furniture that is easily moved
- Plug ins for students’ technology devices
- Furniture that is comfortable
- Space that can be supervised easily as needed
- Lots of lighting- natural if possible
- Space for students to work in private
- Space that is more than a ‘separate’ classroom; it needs to be larger
- Colors that are soothing
Group 6: Success for the 21st Century learner will increasingly be dependent upon having the opportunity to ‘start’ on a similar footing as one’s peers. Active home engagement in the teaching/learning process for our youngest children, in partnership with strong pre-K programs such as Head Start and ECFE are vitally important to giving everyone the opportunity to start their school ‘careers’ out right! One small group of the Task Force was asked to design and identify the important space elements for early childhood programs and services. Below are those elements.
- A place for staff meetings/conference areas
- Ample storage for materials and supplies, seasonal equipment, student belongings
- Large motor areas
- Space for quiet activities/time out/sensory
- Lots of natural lighting
- Community gathering space
- Quite reading area
- Restrooms for children and adults
- Food preparation/daily living space
- Play space for a variety of activities
- Space to conduct early childhood screening
- Sibling care space/Parent rooms
- Staff planning space
- Private observation space
Facilitators’ Comments: The importance of this exercise was its ability to get Task Force members to recognize that the future of education is ‘evolving’ into something quite different than what it was when the current facilities were designed and constructed and that new designs must be brought into the planning process to ensure changes/additions/upgrades in facilities will support the changing nature of instruction. There was a level of uncertainty relative to its meaning and significance as the exercise began. Based upon the feedback in the formal session and after the meeting was concluded, an understanding of the importance of thinking literally ‘out of the box’ appeared to be achieved.
Questions as we move forward
- What is our obligation to James Madison tenants
- At what point do we ‘stop’ putting money into our current buildings and simply build new?
- What is the cost difference of ‘paying now’ or ‘paying later’?
- Don’t we have some plumbing issues?
- Do all of those ‘things’ that were found deficient by the engineers in need of being fixed immediately?
Next Meeting: The next meeting of the Task Force will be on Wednesday, January 9th beginning at 6:00 p.m. It will be held in the High School media center/study hall area. At the meeting, Task Force members will begin to see a number of design concepts that are intended to address both space shortage issues as well as 21st century design ideas.
The second meeting of the Space Utilization and Educational Planning Task Force began with a review of its purpose which was to, “…review all data related to the current conditions of Virginia’s School facilities, and how well they are meeting the educational needs of its growing student population…” The Board further asked that the task force, through a process of collaboration, “…develop a set of recommendations for board consideration that ensures the cost efficient and educational effectiveness of all school facilities well into the future…”
The second meeting of the task force was conducted on the evening of November 28, 2012. The meeting was attended by thirty-seven (37) members of the task force including two (2) new members. Below is a summary of the outcomes of a variety of activities task force members participated in at the meeting.
The meeting began with a presentation entitled ‘Education Evolving’ and a subsequent series of discussions related to how the system of public education has changed over the years and how it can be expected to change in the future. The presentation included a video ‘clip’ from a TED Talk presented by Sir Kenneth Robinson, author of the book entitled, “The Element.” The TED Talk was titled, “Changing The Educational Paradigm”. Following this portion of the ‘Education Evolving’ presentation, time was given to the task force to share their thoughts and ideas with the entire task force membership. Below is the set of takeaways from the video.
Virginia Public Schools’ Space Utilization and Educational Planning
Conducted by ATS&R
Quick Takeaways: “Changing The Educational Paradigm”
- Education, as we now deliver it, is ‘old’ fashion.
- Our current system of education is about conformity.
- We’re attempting to use technology on an old platform.
- How can we change what we now have?
- We’re wasting the brilliance of our children.
- Collaboration is a new norm in education.
- Creativity through the arts has been lost; we’re putting kids into narrow tracks.
- It is easier to teach everyone the same.
- ADHD is too frequently being used as an excuse for poor learning habits.
The task force was then presented with additional thoughts regarding the changing nature of education; with a more focused emphasis on student engagement. A You Tube video was shown entitled, “Engage Me.” Following this video, task force members were again asked to share their thoughts and ideas. Below is the set of takeaways from the video.
Quick Takeaways: “Engage Me”
- How do teachers change when they’ve been taught to teach in the manner as they were taught?
- Should we limit screen time, or find ways to use it differently?
- There are real differences between adult expectations related to technology utilization and students’ expectations.
- Is ‘equality’ teaching the same way to everyone or teaching differently?
- Students at all levels need to be actively engaged in their learning.
- There exists major generational gaps in how technology is used.
Following the ‘Education Evolving’ presentation, the task force was divided into six (6) small groups and asked to consider two (2) questions. The first question was, ‘what are the major ‘takeaways’ from the presentation, “Education Evolving’? The second question was, ‘what are the significant implications for facilities, professional development and community’? Below is the set of responses to the first question related to ‘take aways.’ They are cited as ‘Key Themes.’
Key Theme Comments:
- There is a need for professional development for teachers on the use of technology (2).
- Education is complex; there are more things today that schools are asked/required to focus on than ever before.
- One challenge public schools face today is finding out just ‘how’ we prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist (2).
- We need facilities that foster the needs of the 21st century learner.
- We have to change how we work in our schools in order to keep up with technology.
- It is increasingly difficult to keep pace with the changes in our society.
- We don’t always need to have a teacher present to get information. Google can be used to find lots of answers.
- It is hard to imagine just what lies ahead and how we prepare our students for it.
- Change is taking place at a rapid pace (2).
- We have a large career span and will need to develop multiple sets of skills to enable us to have success in a variety of jobs/careers.
- It is important that we find ways to determine students’ abilities and strengths.
- We need to ‘reconsider’ grouping students by abilities instead of just by age (note for continuous progress programs).
- We just may need to change how we do things.
- Kids are developing new learning styles.
- We don’t allow our students to use ‘creativity’ enough in their work.
- Educators must become more versatile.
- Students should be more in control of what they learn and utilize their teachers more in an advisory role.
- Teachers should become more facilitators of student learning.
- As students feel more stress to learn; learning becomes more difficult.
- Students are growing up more quickly than in the past.
- Group thinking leads to more innovation.
The second questioned posited to the small groups was, ‘what are the significant implications for facilities, professional development and community’? The responses were reported out to the large group and have been cited in the form of we must consider statements.
We must consider:
- Whether or not our issue is a facility issue or an instructional/teaching issue.
- Whether or not we need more ‘commons’ spaces for our students and just what those spaces might look like.
- How we find ‘time’ for teachers to get the professional growth they need to learn and implement technology (2).
- Moving away from a teaching model where ‘one size fits all.’
- Segregating students by level of achievement rather than just age.
- Learning as a life-long endeavor.
- Finding new ways to measure accountability and making current standards more applicable.
- How we align student and adult expectations (‘…if it was good enough for me then it is good enough for your children…’).
- Implementing more experiential learning that promotes the development of creativity, collaboration and the arts within our children.
- The shift that is taking place in education with teachers as collaborators with students in the learning process rather than directors of it.
- Preparing for a community backlash to the changes we must make in our schools and ask the question, ‘is it really where our community wants its schools to go’?
- Finding ways to keep our teachers ‘educated.’
- Finding ways to access and use information and knowledge that is available to us.
- How openness and creativity can become a part of our schools.
- Ways to find time to provide for play and free time that enhances student creativity.
- Limiting the time our students spend on homework.
- And recognize that creative projects are important to a student’s learning experience.
- Creating a real ‘middle school’ program and possibly change grade configuration to 6-8.
- That we’re currently attempting to differentiate instruction with 25 to 30 students in our rooms.
Facilitators’ Comments: From task force members responses noted above, there appears to be a consensus in several areas. First, from the ‘takeaways,’ it was recognized that the teaching/learning process is changing; in somewhat dramatic ways. Students need to develop skills in communication, collaboration and creativity. Teachers need to learn how to effectively incorporate technology into their classrooms. And teachers as mentors and advisors seem to be the direction that education is moving toward. From the ‘we must consider’ exercise, the task force appeared to have consensus in recognizing that the model of teaching should be examined/evaluated. There also appeared to be a consensus that a ‘reconfiguration’ of how current school space is being used (from an instructional point of view) is an important activity to be done. Finally, there was recognition that a generational difference exists in how learning should take place and that difference will impact not only the internal dynamics of school change, but the external (discussions with the community) as well. References to technology, its uses, and effectiveness and training requirements were noted throughout both discussions.
Following the activities that centered on the presentation ‘Education Evolving,’ the task force was provided with additional information related to the current use of educational space as well as updated information related to future changes in the student population. The facility utilization update included a preliminary summary of how the James Madison building was being used. Following this presentation, task force members were asked to respond to the information. Below is the set of ‘quick takeaways’ from the presentation.
Quick Takeaways: Building Utilization
- We need more room to accommodate our growing student population.
- We’re attempting to put a 21st century learning program into 20th century buildings.
- We now have students in classrooms that were designed for a different kind of teaching.
- We need to be more flexible in our thinking; students, teachers and our community.
- We have an opportunity to reconfigure our spaces to better accommodate changes in the teaching/learning process.
- Our buildings have good ‘bones’ but need some work in areas such as electrical and heating systems.
- We are working off of 5 year projections and may need to go longer.
Facilitators’ Comments: The task force’s response to the building utilization portion of the meeting showed a strong connection and overlap with the education evolving portion of the meeting. The task force, in making comments such as, ‘…we’re attempting to put 21st century learning into 20th century buildings…’ and, ‘…students are now in classrooms designed for a different kind of teaching…’ demonstrated that there is more to their challenge than simply facing the reality of needing additional space to accommodate more student. There is also a need to evaluate how well the existing space is aligned with changing educational practices.
Prior to the meeting, the facilitators spent an entire day in the Virginia school district. A team of engineering experts went through each building in an effort to gain some insights into how well the buildings were functioning. In addition, one of the facilitators spent time interviewing students from Roosevelt and Virginia Senior High School as well as interviewing teachers from Parkview, Roosevelt and Virginia Senior High School. A summary of the engineering review will be given to task force members at its meeting on December 13th. A summary of the student and faculty interviews is provided below.
What They Said: Teachers and Students
- We don’t have enough regular classrooms.
- Our music program is on a ‘cart’ and we have no performance space except in the gymnasium.
- We have no risers for our students to perform on.
- When we use the gym for special programs, we displace our physical education teachers.
- Our current scheduling of specialist time creates overcrowding in our gyms.
- Our art room is undersized.
- The O.T./P.T program is conducted in the hallway; this creates both congestion and confidentiality issues.
- Our Title I instruction, computer lab and media center are all in the same space.
- Kids need to spend too much time in the lunch line and there is not enough space for everyone to sit at one time.
- The ECSE program is in undersized space.
- There are only two (2) unisex bathrooms for faculty and staff in the entire building.
- In the primary classrooms, the telephones were placed next to the bathrooms creating awkward privacy issues.
- The parent drop off space is inadequate.
- There are not adequate playground and lunchroom supervisory personnel.
- Our classrooms were designed to accommodate 20-21 students; we now have as many as 25 in many classrooms.
- There is a need for more copy machines and access to them.
- The technology is okay when it works, but it has taken as long as 27 minutes to log-on in a class.
- There are expectations for our use of technology that we simply cannot meet (frequent breakdowns and lack of training).
- It would be nice if our hallways had more space for displaying student work.
- Locker proximity is less than ideal; in many cases too far from the classroom to maintain proper supervision.
- Our reception area is too small.
- We lack cohesive proximity relative to the location of our classrooms (grade 6).
- We lack adequate collaborative preparation space (i.e. workroom, lounge).
- Interior rooms are small and have no natural light.
- Our internet ‘drops’ its signal quite often.
- Our 4th and 5th grades are self-contained; we differentiate instruction within homerooms.
- Our music is in our ‘homerooms’; putting 1.5 classrooms of students into a single room.
- Different kinds of furniture might allow us to do different things.
- Computer lab space is difficult to schedule.
- Interactive white boards are used frequently but don’t operate consistently; we don’t have sufficient tech support.
- We’re fortunate to have the technology but we lack sufficient training to effectively use it.
- A couple of our teachers are using EdMoto in an effort to ‘flip’ their classroom- but haven’t received formal training in how to do it.
- It would be nice to have a media center that is separate from the senior high school.
- We need more technology that works.
- In-class storage is inadequate.
- Our ventilation system does not provide consistent room temperatures; windows do not open.
- Steps and ramps need to be examined; there is excessive wear.
- The energy consumption in this building (especially the theater) is very bad; the building is not efficient.
- Our ‘new’ windows don’t open; it would be helpful when our rooms get too warm in the fall and spring.
- The ‘labyrinth’ nature of our building is not operationally efficient (it takes too much time for students and staff to get from one end to the other.
- 4th floor lacks basic amenities such as faculty lounge, restrooms, or a workroom.
- 4th floor does not have real definition.
- Sr. High staff eats lunch in their rooms; there is a lack of sufficient space for staff to get together.
- The phy ed. program does not have any outdoor space; tennis courts are 6 blocks away, we have access to only the ‘old’ gyms.
- Other than the auditorium, there is no other performance space for students.
- Locker rooms are separated from the gym.
- The media center is not strategically located.
- 4th floor teachers and students can hear the air exchangers on the roof.
- If we had a choice, we’d prefer a new building to the renovation of the existing.
- Our technology ‘looks’ good but doesn’t always work and it often takes too long to get it fixed.
- Scheduling computer labs is difficult to do; especially during the state ‘testing’ period.
- We work within a ‘push/pull’ environment; the more we use it, the more it breaks down.
- We have great industrial tech space however they have basic design flaws such as a lack of garage doors, delivery truck parking.
“We just know that we need to make it with what we have”
Facilitator’s Comments: Generally speaking, the faculty in all three (3) buildings was accepting of the spaces they were assigned to teach in. The predominant theme however, is the lack of training in the use of the technology as well as a frustration over the frequency that it breaks down. Everyone was quick to note that they did not blame the failure of the technology on the ‘tech’ department; rather suggesting that there was simply too much technology to be properly and efficiently maintained by the current level of staffing. As the newest building, it was noted by Parkview staff that the building lacked proper space for student activities such as music and general student ‘performance’ activities. It was also noted that there was not appropriately designed space to accommodate the programs such as Title I and O.T./P.T. Uneven ventilation and educational inadequacies were noted by both the Roosevelt and Virginia High School faculty. All three faculty groups also noted the lack of proper and adequate professional development space to conduct Professional Learning Communities and other collaborative activities. They also were in agreement that additional training in the use of technology was needed.
- This building meets all of our requirements for learning; however the heat is uneven in many classrooms.
- The lockers are too small to fit a back-pack into.
- Stairways are oftentimes slippery.
- It would be nice to have more rooms with carpeting.
- The bathrooms, for the fifth grade are not conveniently located.
- In the fall and spring, the rooms can be very warm; windows that open would be nice.
- We can hear kids playing outside some of our rooms and that can be distracting.
- Our technology is ‘amazing’ but sometimes it just doesn’t cooperate.
- Downloading information can be a real problem; it takes too long.
- The iPads are nice but are too big of a responsibility for a 6th grade student.
- Our teachers use the iPads a lot to help break down assignments but if we really need help we go to our teachers- they’re human!
- It’s nice to use the iPads to contact teachers at home if we are having homework problems.
- Kids sometimes play games on their iPads while teachers are teaching.
- It’s nice not to have to go to the computer lab.
- It would be nice to have grass; there is too much football being played on the playground it takes up too much space.
High School- Students
- We ‘love’ the history and tradition within the walls of our school: Fix It Please!
- The administration should be more efficient in scheduling; create department ‘wings’ (i.e. all math in one area, science in another etc).
- Keep teacher room assignments more consistent.
- Our school has a personality and we like it.
- We like that many of our teachers add ‘personal touches’ to their rooms making them more welcoming.
- Have different colors; and minimize white walls.
- We need more space like the ‘Urban Edge’; a place for students to come together.
- The lunchroom is too crowded and too loud.
- The small swimming pool needs to be fixed.
- Our school is a friendly place; we all get along and care for one another.
- The faculty has played an important role in making our schools a good place to be; they teach ‘kindness.’
- We don’t have windows; this is a problem because of the uneven heating and cooling in our building.
- The upper grades have to use the ‘old’ gym.
- We don’t have a place for students to park.
- Our technology is more advanced than most other schools.
- There is an uneven use of technology in our classrooms.
- We need to put more texts on our iPads.
- We have an orientation on how to use technology, but no real training.
- Our teachers don’t have enough technology skills.
- We have 5 pages of apps on our computers and hardly any of them are used.
- They’ve changed how we save our work on computers so that we can only save our work on the same computer- it might not be available.
- Our interactive white boards are not dependable.
- The changeover to Infinite Campus has been difficult.
- The servers are very slow, Wi-Fi doesn’t work; technology is not dependable.
- We need to improve on how to use the technology that we have before we expand it.
- Our teachers aren’t all on the same page- some don’t use technology at all and some use it too much.
- We want to keep our building!
- Teacher training needs to be more effective.
- We have an advanced and organized technology department.
- We need more/different software for our iPads so they can be used more effectively.
- Technology’s use/impact on learning needs more clarity; it can actually inhibit learning if not used properly.
- Have we purchased technology to improve teaching or just to say that we did?
Facilitators’ Comments- Generally speaking, the students at both Roosevelt as well as Virginia High School were very satisfied with their school. They like its history and traditions. Other than expressing concern/complaints related to the uneven temperatures throughout the building and the inability to open the new windows, students focused most of their attention to their teachers. Their comments were positive; they enjoyed the school ‘climate’ and attributed much of that to their teachers. The area of most concern centered on the use of technology. Similar to the responses of the faculty in each building, students view the technology as being too inconsistent; it cannot be counted on to work. They also noted what they described as an ‘uneven’ application in the use of technology. It was especially interesting to note comments related to the training, or lack thereof, given to their teachers.
The meeting concluded with one task force member posing the following question, “…what are our current operating costs and how do they compare to the costs of operating a new school…?
The next meeting will include an update of the review of school facilities conducted by ATS&R as well as additional information related to school change. Task force members will spend time in small groups designing creative ways to redesign existing spaces to address the critical needs identified through the activities of the first two meetings.