- Jeff McCoy, associate superintendent of academics for Greenville (S.C.) County Schools shares with eSchool News how his district is creating award-winning innovative and individual school designs that reflect the learning process and engage students in education.
- To reinforce learning, Dr. Phinnize Fisher Middle School, for example, has exposed ceilings with colorful pipes, walls of windows designed to reduce energy costs, server rooms behind glass, a rain-collection system in the cafeteria and glass partitions between some work areas to allow for maximum collaboration.
- McCoy recounts some of the most important lessons the school district has learned in developing innovative school designs: design with a purpose; involve all stakeholders, including teachers, in the design process; eliminate silos so that instruction can influence design, and be willing to take risks.
As schools age and populations shift, district leaders are often charged with overseeing the process of building new schools. While this responsibility is a heavy one, it also allows for innovation and the opportunity for a superintendent to make his mark on a district. New school designs need to include room for technology, collaboration and the opportunity to create a new school identity while still keeping student safety as a primary concern.
Including educator input in new school designs is crucial. The purpose of any educational building should be to create an environment that invites students to learn. Creating an innovative design that accomplishes this may be time consuming, but it may not necessarily be more expensive in the long run, especially when energy savings and staffing concerns are included. For instance, placing elementary bathrooms between classrooms and using glass doors to allow teachers to see students at the hand-washing areas, can allow for better monitoring of students.
The National Education Association also recommends some ideas for new construction such as the inclusion of
“schools-within-schools,” more natural lighting, flexible spaces, and areas that allow for increased collaboration. As district leaders explore new school ideas, they may also want to take a look at some of the most innovative schools in the world and at other schools that can inspire ideas that best meet the needs and unique personality of their districts.