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evening exterior view of school with floor to ceiling windows and lighting at Topeka Center for Advanced Learning & Careers

Rethinking K-12 Education

Jim French

Many questions remain unanswered as we navigate life through the pandemic, but the one question that weighs heavily on me relates to the future of schools. What will K-12 education look like in fall 2020 and beyond?

To answer this question, we developed an engagement survey to understand from its clients’ point of view the challenges they are currently facing; obstacles they foresee in the immediate future; and the long-term implications COVID-19 will have on the industry. Design professionals conducted personal interviews and candid conversations with more than 150 superintendents, district administrators, facilities managers, educators, parents, and students in both rural and urban school districts across the country.

An overwhelming percentage of respondents said that students want to return to school in the fall. They miss socializing outside of class, the personal relationships with peers and teachers, and the separation of home and school life. Participants also agreed that the design of future educational facilities will be impacted. They expect changes in the design of interior spaces, instructional models, and how students and teachers are engaged in the environment.

How will this data transform our designs?
Based on the feedback we received, the team is investigating and developing solutions that districts can implement immediately, as well as options they can consider long-term.

  1. NOW
    We are utilizing space planning and design scenarios to address traditional classroom instruction, dining, and hands-on learning. We’re also exploring large group gatherings, such as athletics and performing arts, and will collaborate with sustainability and engineering leaders within the firm to provide our clients with solutions for monitoring indoor air quality and systems inspections.
  2. NEAR
    Building on the expertise of the firm’s BOLD team, we are developing solutions based on the inquiry-based learning model that has been designated as one of the most productive teaching models for the COVID-19 world.
  3. FAR
    Our education design experts are defining what school looks like in the fall and beyond, and which changes in the delivery of education can be made to positively impact the school community. We see multiple angles where our design expertise can provide our clients with a well-rounded toolbox of design service offerings from bolstering community partnerships – community centers, places of worship, etc. – and blurring the lines of where education can take place, to investigating the increased presence of technology in classrooms to better facilitate online learning.

I do believe schools will open in some capacity this fall, but there are some scenarios being discussed that are not ideal for teaching and learning. Our team is providing insight and design solutions that continue pushing progressive learning forward, not reverting back to kids in rows learning via lecture.

Read our ideas and see our concept plans for ways to address classroom instruction, dining, and hands-on learning now.

Learn more about the findings of our K-12 Engagement Survey.


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