By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
As the planning stages move forward on Liberal’s five new schools, I get more excited about our community’s future.
I was invited to take a tour of the same designs being built, and it is a much different experience to look at plans and pictures than it is to walk the hallways.
Needless to say, the buildings were impressive.
Still, each community has a different need, and taking a look at the new middle school in Kansas City and elementary in Little Rock Ark., gave local folks on the design team a chance to see exactly how the design will look when it is built here, and to make changes now.
Anyone who has ever been involved with a construction project can tell you that changing a plan during construction is costly.
Taking the trip to the two sites in one day allowed teachers, administrators and community members a chance to see what they like, what they didn’t and speak directly to the architect to modify the plans for Liberal’s new schools.
The first thought that came to mind when looking at the new schools was how spacious and attractive they were.
These schools will become enhancements to the neighborhoods where they will be built. To say they have curb appeal is perhaps an understatement. The appeal does not stop at the curb.
Schools are not the antiseptic facilities they once were.
These buildings will be alive with activity throughout the day and into the evening, and they look like a place students, parents and community members will want to be.
The buildings go beyond a collective of classrooms. The learning process moves out into the corridors, and in some cases outdoors.
Visibility is also a main new component. Down the main thoroughfares in shared spaces will be lots and lots of glass for several reasons. The first reason is studies have indicated that students perform better when there is natural light and windows.
The second is increased visibility.
I asked the architect about the safety of all the glass, and he assured me that the thickness can stand up to basketballs, even people, running into them. “The frame will give before the glass will,” he said.
In addition to the windows and openness of the design is the common sense layout. It’s one thing to draw out a design on paper and quite another to see if it is practical.
The walkthrough showed the benefits of the layout, especially for the areas where the public will congregate.
And what may seem like a simple thing like the floor coverings (carpet, tile, concrete or vinyl), getting to see them somewhere else before making a decision here was very beneficial. Polished concrete, for example, has its pluses and minuses. It did not impress the design team, especially when carpet tile can be done for the same cost.
After more than half a century of falling behind for most of our schools, these new buildings may seem like something out of science fiction with the flexibility and efficiency they will offer.
What we have to remember is we are not only building schools for the needs of today, but for what will be needed decades from now.
Other than the four walls, today’s classrooms are very different than when I went to school. Desks are different. Chalkboards are different. They don’t use slide projectors or televisions on carts any more. Each class has its own video projector. They need more electrical outlets.
We live in a technological era, and our classrooms have to prepare students for the world they will live in, not necessarily the one we did. We wouldn’t expect a child today to learn how to run a filmstrip projector when they need to learn how to stream live video on their cell phone.
These new classrooms will be equipped for the future.
I remember someone saying buildings don’t teach anything. Perhaps. But these buildings will allow learning to take place in a way we never experienced. These buildings are smart.