New Brunswick High School
What exemplary ideas do the designs contain that enhance learning?
As discussed in the educator’s narrative, the District’s vision for its new high school called for a highly flexible learning environment which could be personalized over time to the changing needs of individual learners as well as to those of the school community. The design for the school facility has addressed these needs in several ways:
· In order to support anticipated public use without compromising the safety and security of students and staff, the organization of the overall plan is layered, with areas and functions serving the school community located closest to the main entrance and public lobby. The 3-story academic wing, which houses the majority of dedicated instructional areas is buffered from the central core by blocks of shared specialized facilities and outdoor spaces.
· The academic wing is organized around nine highly flexible “Resource Areas” about which are clustered a wide variety of learning environments and support facilities which include classrooms, collaborative classrooms, project labs, small group areas, and flexible classrooms (adjoining classrooms with operable partitions between each other and the adjoining Resource Area).
· Each of the academic “pods” which are thus created have capacity to support 200 to 250 students. This creates a highly flexible framework over which the current departmentalized programs have been layered, but which will support other organizations in the future.
· Specialized facilities, which have been kept to a minimum, are grouped, but distributed over all three floors of the academic wing to allow for sharing within future organizations.
· Flexible mobile furniture is used throughout the academic wing to allow for changing use and personalization. In the Resource Areas, this includes mobile white boards and LCD projectors to support individual, small group, and large-group study, collaboration, presentation, instruction, and cross-curricular activities.
· Technology is ubiquitously infused throughout the facility with a campus-wide wireless network and laptops, and LCD projection in all learning areas.
· The facility, which has been designed to meet LEED certification requirements, also makes extensive use of natural lighting with day lighting sensor systems to control energy usage. Rather than a large centralized HVAC system, smaller modular systems have been utilized to support a variety of use and occupancy schedules over the course of the school day and school year.
What innovations in the planning, programming, and design process supported the realization of these exemplary ideas?
Community Engagement - The planning and programming process included all stakeholders through visioning workshops and public forums. Initially, there was some concern over whether a suitable site could be found for the project. By working closely with municipal planners, not only was a site identified, but the project was conceived as a community anchor for the City’s Renaissance 2000 redevelopment zone. This planning process also led to a unique form of project delivery which includes the Board of Education, the City, and local redevelopment agencies working together to design and construct the facility.
Planning for Flexibility — By far the greatest challenge was to develop a plan which could support the District’s current departmentalized high school programs while allowing for the future development and implementation of small learning communities. In order to support this, educators engaged in the programming process were asked to abandon typical stereotypes and preconceptions of what constitutes a “classroom”. Working with p
“All children can learn
only if we believe they can.”
The New Brunswick Board of Education and its staff are committed to achieving educational excellence through activities that:
· Encourage students to be lifelong learners.
· Prepare students to live and compete in our rapidly changing, high tech world.
· Provide a rich educational experience, which includes academics as well as co-curricular activities such as athletics, fine arts and leadership opportunities.
The District’s existing high school is student-focused. The administration, faculty, and staff are devoted to preparing students to be successful in life, not just in school. Students are taught to be effective communicators, independent thinkers, and creative problem solvers.
The District’s vision for its new schools has been strongly influenced by the ideas suggested by Turning Points 2000 and Breaking Ranks, particularly the ideas of personalized learning and teaching students to be lifelong learners. As evidenced our Health Sciences Technology High School program, initiated in the year 2000, the District has made a commitment toward the development of small learning communities in both its new middle and high school programs.
In planning the District’s new high school it was recognized that, although there was a strong desire to move directly to new programs structured around a small learning community organization, the current departmentalized organization of the existing high school programs, curricula, and staff could not be ignored. As suggested by Turning Points 2000, the District recognized that facilities do not exist in isolation. Facilities are only one element of an educational system which includes curricula, instructional methods, organizational relationships, governance and leadership, staff and professional development, parents, and community.
A School for the Community
All public schools in New Brunswick are community schools. The District has, for some time, understood that schools can be centers of community and has supported this concept vigorously. All of out schools are open to the public on from 7 to 11 pm six days or more a week. Some of our schools are as busy places in the evening as they are during the day. Therefore, it was also acknowledged that the new high school must also be designed allow for around-the-clock public use and access without compromising the safety and security of students and staff.
“Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility
For these and other reasons, the most important goals for the new high school facility were flexibility, flexibility, and more flexibility. Flexibility to not only allow, but to support and encourage change on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis, in response to the needs of both the individual student, and of the greater school community. The design of the new high school must support the current departmentalized organization while allowing for the future development of smaller theme-based or career-oriented academy programs. It must also support a broad range of learning and teaching styles including large group, small group, intermediate group, individual, formal, informal, passive, active, and self-guided instruction, and must allow for a high degree of personalization of the learning environment by faculty and students.