(Image via the Boston Globe)
Schools. They are important pieces of our society. They function as ways for our youth to learn and grow, to live and find out what they are capable of. But schools also have bad reputations, especially public schools. Too crowded, too inflexible, too stuck to the past.
So what can we do to change how public schools can function? My take –
First, don’t think of the school as ‘just a school’. Communities need a campus that provides lots of services all together. Not just school, but daycare, after-school activities, medical care (which includes dental, eye care and mental health services as well). Not to mention the services for parents and guardians as well.
An ideal campus for the first years of school would look something like this –
- A building for daycare services, providing parents a safe space for their infants and toddlers. Parents can then also access information about how to prepare their child for schooling, as well as get information for their own parenting questions.
- A building for after-school services, providing homework help, as well as creative activities and sports activities. Parents need to feel that they are able to work and leave their children in a place where activities will keep them safe while they earn a living.
- A building dedicated to Early Childhood Education, for children from pre-school age (4ish) to around 2nd grade (7-8ish). Here toddlers become children and students, and are exposed to learning in all possible forms. Guidance in the form of counselors, social workers, psychologists are available for both parents and teachers to assist where there are issues.
- A building dedicated to the elementary educational years, for 3rd to 5th grade (ages 8ish to 11-12ish). Here is where education must become something valued by all. Keep the guidance services ready, and make sure that medical and after school are part of any plan.
- A medical building, a clinic to serve all manner of needs for students and their families. Students who need dental services or eye exams and glasses should be able to get them and return to school or go right after or right before school. Students who need counseling, or extra help because of learning issues, or mental health issues – they can come here and get the help they need. Parents can also access these services.
- Open space for children to have recess and playtime. A park-like space, with lots of things to play on and play with. Plenty of attendants and monitors as well.
- A separate administration building for teachers, administrators and managers of programs. Meeting spaces to discuss issues. Plenty of space for document storage, and teams of data managers to work on scanning and storing documents.
Once a child becomes a pre-teen, a second campus for the rest of schooling would be needed. Same set up, except replace the actual school buildings with –
- An intermediate school for ages 11-12ish to 14ish, grades 6-8.
- A junior high school for grades 9 and 10.
- A senior high school for grades 11 and 12.
- And replace the ‘play space’ with an outdoor relaxation space. Park-like still, but with more benches to sit on, tables to sit and eat at, and natural spaces for groups to gather and talk.
- Replace the day care building with a building for the guidance and counseling and community needs of both students and parents.
Why break up the high school? Students in grades 9 and 10 are still mostly children, and need to have space to both learn and fail and try again. These are also the years where if a student doesn’t do well, they should be able to do it again, which can mean staying in a grade another year or so. These schools need to be able to accommodate students who are quick learners as well as those who need extra time. Keeping the guidance and counseling in place is tantamount, as students begin to really need help managing mental changes. Students in grade 10 need to be made aware of colleges, and start to work with guidance and teachers and administrators on what they might be interested in doing after they complete high school. Any curricula and plan needs to have space to help children and their parents navigate such things.
Once a student reaches grade 11 and the high school, both student and parents should be focused on academics and college planning. Here is where help can be a real boon. Guidance and counseling needs to have groups dedicated to college prep, and teachers need to be here as well. Schools that offer this kind of prep will be needed for many years to come.
What about students who don’t want to go to college? Guidance and counseling here as well, and information about other possible routes – civil or military service, work options, community college part time, apprentice programs.
Yes, this is a lot to consider, but for rural, suburban/ex-urban and urban districts, this is a good way to not only educate, but also provide the services kids and parents need to be able to function in today’s world.