In November 2009, Findlay voters were responsible for an Ohio “first” . . . supporting a levy to build three new schools, expected to be finished by September 2013. A few years ago, The American Architectural Foundation and the Knowledge Works Foundation convened the National Summit on School Design. An offshoot of this national summit was a list of eight suggestions for school systems lucky enough to be building new facilities.
Design schools to support a variety of learning styles
Some kids learn best in large group settings. Some prefer individual study, while others flourish in small, cooperative teams. Today’s schools need to accommodate all types of students and their learning styles.
Integrate technology into the buildings
All three new buildings will be wired for the latest high-tech educational tools and classrooms including Smart Boards and other interactive learning devices. A group of teachers and students from Glenwood Middle School worked on different technology applications last year and will serve as a springboard to integrate technology into the new middle school buildings. Netbooks and iPads will be the tools of choice in some math and science classes during the 2011/2012 school year and beyond.
Encourage a small school culture
Even though the size of the two middle school populations will be larger (approximately 600 students each at Donnell and Glenwood) steps are already in place to retain more of a small school environment.
Support neighborhood schools
The Findlay City Board of Education elected to keep the schools nearer to their former locations where they could remain a vital part of the Findlay community. Both middle schools and the career tech center will be within walking distance of downtown. In addition, jobs generated by the construction projects as well as additional spending by visiting workers, will enhance
Create schools as centers of the community
Donnell Middle School on Findlay’s south side; Glenwood Middle School on the north and Millstream Career Tech to the west will be resources for the entire Findlay community. More than school facilities, they will also serve as recreation centers, community gathering places and performing arts spaces.
Engage the public in your planning process
For nearly a year prior to the levy, a diverse team of local residents heard presentations from OSFC officials, construction companies and school administration. Comprised of corporate leaders, teachers, parents and local builders, the team dissected all the options available considering costs, available land and what was ultimately best for the students.
Make healthy, comfortable and flexible learning spaces
While good teachers and learning materials are essential to student achievement, the importance of the actual physical environment cannot be overlooked. According to the National Summit’s report, “Spatial configurations, color, daylighting, ventilation and acoustics can affect kids’ ability to focus, process information and to learn.”
Consider non-traditional options for school facilities and classrooms
Both middle schools will easily be able to convert “lunch rooms” into performance and meeting venues when needed. Classroom space has been designed for more interactive learning and to accept technology like Smart Boards and multi-focus projectors. There is an emphasis on handicapped accessibility, with rooms set up for special needs students to accommodate wheelchairs and furnish grab bars for balance.
As the Findlay community learns about the potential the new schools will create for enhanced educational opportunities; the student-friendly environment and a smaller carbon footprint, the start of a new school year should be an exciting first step in the transition to true 21st century learning.
For updated information on the Findlay City Schools building projects, visit www.findlaycityschools.org