Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Constructing the Building Plans in RISD

The new RISD strategic plan contains six strategies, one of which is "We will ensure that our facilities and infrastructure adapt to support our mission." That's a tautology, but that just gives the action team working this strategy more freedom to come up with plans of their own devices. I've got some advice.

The new teams shouldn't try to come up with building plans for, say, White Rock Elementary expansion (that's already underway). And they shouldn't worry about what RISD will need in the way of buildings when, say, online at-home learning takes over the world (that's too speculative to need solutions now, although some thought should be going into that by someone). A planning timeline of three to five years seems appropriate, beyond the already identified specific needs of any given school, but within the range where we can accurately anticipate unidentified future needs arising.

The teams should define the process that will be used to decide where and when schools need to be expanded or new schools constructed, so we can get ahead of the curve and not allow a repeat of what's happened to us recently in Lake Highlands. Here are the types of questions that the planning team should be trying to answer:

  • How do we decide when to build more elementary schools?
  • How much should we rely on magnet schools to deal with overcrowding issues?
  • Should we consider going to a K-3, 4-6 model or a K-4, 5-8 model, or something else?
  • How big do we allow the high schools to get before building a fifth?
  • Where do we house the charter schools that politicians seem to be encouraging finding homes inside our public school buildings?

We don't need construction plans out of these initial action teams. We need a planning process. Ideally, one that can result in putting enrollment and demographic monitors in place with defined thresholds that trigger a predefined action plan to meet an arising need. I can see the need for a standing committee of citizens continually trying to anticipate such issues and providing advice to the superintendent and school board on what the community feels are appropriate ways to address those future issues.

No comments: