Community and students weigh in on improvements
Last spring, student representatives from all three high schools were asked for their input on a plan to improve facilities throughout District 186. “They gave some very specific and good, detailed suggestions,” said Superintendent Jennifer Gill, “but at first they had trouble dreaming the dream.”
After the students were shown photos of other schools which had already been through the improvement process, they got on board, according to Gill. Some expressed a desire to log on to Wi-Fi to utilize their devices for school projects as well as space to spread out materials and study.
“There’s no elevator to a great plan,” said Samuel Johnson, principal architect for BLDD Architects. “You’ve got to take the steps. And when you’ve got a district with this many buildings, the possibilities are just about endless.” Johnson’s firm (the initials stand for “Because Life Deserves Design”) has been retained by District 186 to help shape the district’s ongoing facilities improvement plan, with the long-term goal of pinpointing the best and most affordable ways to either renovate the current outdated and decaying school buildings or construct new ones.
“We always like to involve the community from the ground up,” Johnson continued. “Everybody has ideas of what they would do if they were superintendent. However, the community – not being experts in educational delivery – does need some guidance.” To that end, over the course of eight well-attended community engagement meetings so far this year, ideas for improvements have been shared between the community, the district and the architect.
The next community engagement session, scheduled for Nov. 1, will focus on the district’s middle schools. “We know there are some pretty profound needs for cafeteria and gym spaces,” Johnson said, “but what about additional classroom spaces that would allow us to create something that’s a little more traditional, like a sixth-grade house?”
Gill says getting rid of outmoded and dilapidated facilities throughout the district is a priority, but with space at a premium, this will be a challenge. “We want to make sure we don’t have any more mobile units that kids are having to go outside for,” she said.
District 186- Our Schools Our Future: http://www.sps186.org/ourschoolsourfuture/
(The next Facilities Master Planning Meeting is November 1, 6 PM, Southeast High School. (Public Meeting)