School Business Affairs June 2020

38 JUNE 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS The importance of the school building to the community is more evident than ever before. The Community Aspect of School Facilities By Jody Andres, AIA, LEED AP facilities A s this unprecedented school year winds down, education leaders must consider the unique cir- cumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to their plans for the coming academic year. Having already considered their capacity to provide online learning, the breadth of their emergency response plans, and innu- merable budget and finance issues, districts might also consider some school facility– related programmatic and design changes. Such changes should be based on ideas born from the countless hours that school boards, superintendents, administrators, and principals spent wrestling with hard facts, compassionate responses, and intense needs to ensure that their students and communi- ties thrive no matter the circumstances. The School as Community Center For decades, schools have served as the cornerstones of their communities, bringing people together and providing opportuni- ties for entertainment, civic engagement, and lifelong learning. This sense of kinship continued during the pandemic, as com- munities pulled together to navigate a “new normal” without school buildings to bring them together. As schools reopen and social restrictions are lifted, school theaters, libraries, gymna- siums, athletic fields, cafeterias, computer labs, and technical education shops can once again host athletic competitions, trade shows, fund-raisers, and community events. The school library can be a beacon of hope for the community by allowing access to technology, low- or no-fee meeting space, GED or career training courses, technology courses for senior citizens, and English- language courses for underserved commu- nity members. Education leaders can begin planning now to offer the resources the community wants and needs when schools reopen. Employee Pipelines Employers are struggling and local econo- mies will need a boost in the coming months. Districts should explore with busi- nesses how they can prepare students to contribute to the local economy. When Wisconsin’s Clintonville Public School District was contemplating a referen- dum to improve their career and technology education spaces, school and local indus- try leaders attended a district-sponsored breakfast meeting to discuss how they could collaborate, pool their resources, and offer enhanced education and training for their community. An open exchange of ideas dur- ing the meeting resulted in more informed decisions and course offerings for students. Another example of cooperative planning can be found in Darlington, a rural school district in southwestern Wisconsin that serves nearly 800 students. Darlington is positioned in one of the state’s most prolific agricultural areas, and the business com- munity focuses on food-related commerce as well as tourism and recreation. The school district developed educational tracks to prepare students for jobs in these niches. Educational facilities were designed to house courses for these specific tracks and to provide a pipeline of students who will have the skills to become an innovative workforce in the local economy. Space for Mental Health More than ever, schools must provide a safe space for the increasing number of students who struggle with mental health issues, often related to depression, fear, and anxiety. Consider these statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Pre- vention’s April 2019 Children’s Mental YURA YAREMA/STOCK.ADOBE.COM