A recently published white paper provided by the Washington, D.C.-based National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities offers educational facility planners and developers insight into the factors influencing school planning and design. In Educational Trends Shaping School Planning and Design: 2007, Kenneth R. Stevenson, a professor at the University of South Carolina and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policies in the College of Education, shares findings from research on school facilities and student outcomes; current issues, problems, and initiatives in the educational field; emerging demographic patterns; and his previous work on the subject.
The white paper is available at the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities’ website (www.edfacilities.org). A summary of the 12 trends is listed below.
1. School choice (rather than assigning students to schools based on geographic boundaries) has made projecting enrollment numbers difficult. Additionally, Stevenson explains, “Growing numbers of educators and policymakers have begun to realize that ‘identical’ school facilities do not translate into ‘equal opportunity’ for students.” As a result, some school districts are planning specialized facilities that meet schools’ individual program needs.
2. Lately, small schools are being touted for their ability to yield improved student academic achievement. “In the next 25 years, it may not be unusual to see elementary schools housing an average of 200 students, middle schools with no more than 400 to 500 students, and high schools with 500 to 750 students,” Stevenson’s report states.
3. To be expected, the continued interest in and benefits of smaller class sizes will influence planning and design of school facilities in the future. A lower teacher-pupil ratio, according to Stevenson, will depend on two factors: 1) Whether communities will support the increased taxes necessary to pay for smaller classes, and 2) whether research will continue to support the notion that small class sizes garner superior student achievement.
4. Technology will provide greater opportunities for distance learning and cost-effective delivery of basic educational programs. School buildings and classrooms will need to be designed to accommodate these new ways of learning.
5. Schools must be flexible enough to accommodate changes to schools’ ever-evolving missions. Stevenson explains, “Educators and planners need to keep in mind that school missions change; when they do, spatial requirements change with them.”
6. More and more, students are being grouped in classrooms according to their learning styles; some entire schools may eventually be devoted to specialized learning styles in the future. As the Educational Trends report explains, the “one-size-fits-all” classroom model is a thing of the past.
7. The 24/7 school is one way some districts are addressing at-risk students and using classrooms and school buildings more efficiently. In “twilight schools,” students are invited to attend classes before or after work and on weekends. When not used for traditional education, these school buildings often function as community centers.
8. Electronic and online tools and software is becoming the norm, with paper-based learning headed for extinction. “In the digital age, it is more important than ever to consider the adequacy of electrical service, the number of Internet connections, type and configuration of local and wide area computer networks, and the size and design of classrooms and media centers,” explains Stevenson in the report.
9. Grade spans are changing, with the K-8 school staging a comeback. Changes to traditional grade groupings affect layout and the location of schools in a geographic area.
10. Students receiving special education are now learning in classrooms with non-disabled peers. Schools must be prepared to accommodate disabled children in ways that do not isolate them.
11. Early childhood programs are on the rise. If schools increase programming for children in their preschool years, they must plan for sufficient and appropriate space for early childhood classrooms.
12. The disappearance of traditional schools is possible - especially given the technology that is available now to teach children from home.
To download the complete report, visit (www.edfacilities.org/pubs/trends2007.pdf).