Advertisement

Building better schools

October 07, 1998

In this past Sunday's Herald-Mail, reporter Laura Ernde took a look at the school building boom underway in the Tri-state area. Some of the construction is being is sparked by growing enrollment while other projects have been spurred by a desire to repair and update 40- and 50-year-old facilities. Before all the work is done, let us share a few thoughts:

- Beware of designers who propose specialized facilities that might be outmoded in a few years. Elaborate computer labs might be rendered obsolete when every classroom is wired for the Internet, for example. The same goes for designs based on the educational fads of the minute, like the so-called "open" classrooms, whose main feature is that they open classrooms to a lot of outside distractions.

- Beware also of those educators who declare that when it comes to school construction, bigger is always better. In 1996, a University of Michigan research team concluded a nine-year study of 800 U.S. high schools, and found that the ideal-sized school holds between 600 and 900 students.

Advertisement

Schools in that size range showed the greatest progress in reading and math, regardless of students' family income. In schools smaller or larger than the ideal, achievement fell, with minority and low-income students experiencing the worst declines.

- Don't overlook the opportunity save money by converting existing buildings for school use, even if they weren't designed for that purpose. In some jurisdictions, retail space in strip shopping centers has been converted to schools, which is better than allowing empty storefronts to become eyesores.

- Don't forget who's paying for this construction, and consider the possibility that designing buildings that could be used by the community after school hours - fitness facilities for seniors and meeting rooms for civic groups, for example - might make the costs easier to swallow and enhance the school's image as a center of community life. We're all in this together, and whatever we can do to strengthen the relationship will benefit students and those who fund the schools.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|