After years of school-wide renovations, Carmel Unified School District has launched its master facilities planning process to create a cohesive vision for all architectural advances to follow as opposed to individual, isolated developments.
For years, Carmel High School has been embarking on multi-million-dollar, long-term projects without a facilities master plan. In 2011, CHS built a $10 million performing arts center. In 2013, it was a $3 million science wing. In 2016, CHS introduced its completed multi-use sports stadium at a cost of $4 million. Before and between these larger projects, some teachers’ classrooms were updated with interactive SMART boards or high-definition televisions.
Though each project was meant to achieve a specific goal, without a cohesive plan the district was unable to be planned to fit one, comprehensive vision. That is the problem the district is trying to solve now, CUSD superintendent Barbara Dill-Varga says.
“We have been taking time to talk about what kinds of learning experiences we want for our students now and in the future, and it’s important to begin that process by first talking about the district’s educational vision,” Dill Varga says.
In a collaboration between a community advisory council of 40 parents and community members and architect David Jakes, the district educational vision was put on paper with student, teacher and administrative input.
“I am helping the district identify the future conditions for learning that the Carmel community desires so that the architecture firm the district has hired can develop a facilities master plan,” Jakes describes. “My role is to provide the district and the architecture firm with a clear picture of the future of learning so decisions about facilities are grounded by the expectations for learning within the district.”
Taking student-led, teacher-led and administrator-led tours of each campus Feb. 5-9, Jakes heard from each group the aspects of campus that encompass that group’s ideas of a well-run, cohesive campus and aspects that lack that same vision. Following the tours, Jakes met with faculty members and students separately to establish a blueprint encompassing practicality, sustainability and what people want to see when they come to school or work.
Carmel River School, Carmel Middle School and CHS students gathered in the CHS performing arts center Feb. 7 to brainstorm ideas with Jakes and create classroom designs to match their own learning styles while some faculty members participated in a similar workshop throughout that week.
“Both groups looked at images of spaces and associated that with learning,” Jakes says. “The teachers did visioning activities about the current state of learning, the future of learning and the constraints that would prevent moving from the current reality to the future. Students designed outdoor spaces for learning because that appears to be such an obvious need, and I wanted the students’ raw ideas of what that might look like.”
Along with the ability to hear from those that would be directly affected by architectural renovations on CUSD campuses, these workshops allowed Jakes to understand the way students interact with each other and the way faculty members approach education, all giving him a clearer understanding of what these campuses need.
“It was nice to see our voices heard by the administration about what we want improved on our campus and what we think would benefit our education the most,” sophomore Nina Franklin says about the student workshop.
The mission now is to take this data and coalesce it into six “design drivers.” These big picture ideas speak to the vision that the district is hoping to see unfold on their campuses. Jakes can then make recommendations about how spaces can support this vision.
These recommendations will be passed on to the district’s architecture firm to inform their work across campuses, a plan to be realized in the fall of the 2018-19 school calendar year, according to Dill-Varga.