How Local Community Partnerships Inform Pre-Design for K-12 Schools

Schools are breaking down the walls between the classroom and community. In the past, community involvement in schools meant a business donated supplies or an arts group hosted an event. Today, those transactional relationships are turning into deeper partnerships in which community organizations help schools reach programming and achievement goals — and help produce better citizens. Wold Architects and Engineers considers these relationships to be a critical part of how schools are designed for 21st century education.

“To fully prepare students to take part in a diverse and multifaceted society, we want to design a school environment that introduces them to the world,” said Wold architect Josh Grenier, AIA, M. Ed. “During the earliest phase of our school design process, we engage with the community and listen to people in civic and business communities and find out what role they may play in the education of their future citizens and employees.”

For Wold’s pre-design research, this valuable information translates into ideas. A school district’s community and civic partnerships can have an impact on curriculums, programming and outcomes that teachers and administrators consider. It’s critical to include these partners in the overall planning and design process. Wold encourages administrations to think beyond existing relationships, too.

“This isn’t a one-way street. We talk to districts about how their resources can be shared with the public or utilized as potential revenue opportunities. Athletic fields, classrooms and auditoriums can become not just school property but community resources,” said Grenier. “We help schools evaluate the security, sustainability and planning measures they’ll need to make these relationships successful.”

With the input and points of view, Wold teams with the districts to bring all of the ideas to the design process. By leading clients through this listening tour, the design process is a rich tapestry of solutions, allowing Wold and the district to choose the ones best suited for the school’s goals and mission.