Visioning exercises are part of school facilities study

Shawn Hardy
Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School fifth-graders picked school features they like and don't like during a visioning exercise Monday, part of a study of district facility needs being done by the architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT.

Students, parents and teachers used colored dots to indicate school features they like and don't like during visioning exercises Monday as part of a facilities study for the Greencastle-Antrim School District.

Larry Levato of the architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates led the sessions, one at the secondary level and one at the elementary level.

The elementary group included 10 fifth-graders, one picked to represent each classroom: Gorgia Meals, Anna Booze, Wren Roberts, Olivia Stiner, Cooper Noblit, Chase Kuykendall, Sojourner Stevenson, Victoria Bannon, Alex Moore and Landon Timmons.

They took their time examining a series of pictures on the wall and placed their dots, followed by parents and teachers.

Levato pointed out that the groups tend to like and dislike the same things.

Traditional classrooms and corridors lined with lockers got the negative red and yellow dots, while collaborative learning spaces and windows got positive blue and green.

Monday's exercises are one step in the process of looking at long-range goals for district buildings, Levato explained.

His firm also has talked to principals, maintenance staff and kitchen workers. Notes on the visioning exercises will be written up and shared with administrators.

"We're in the middle of the study," he said. "We haven't talked about construction or projects. This is one of the tools we use."

Their visions 

"Students learn a whole different way than when I was a kid," Levato said, highlighting the popularity of collaborative, flexible spaces.

Windows, one area of discussion, demonstrated how much thought needs to be put into school design.

Everyone liked windows for their natural light, but windows that were too large could be distracting.

"Believe it or not, some schools we renovate don't have windows," Levato said, explaining they were built during the energy crunch of the 1970s.

Security concerns and shelter in place safety also have to be taken into account when talking about windows.

And some of the moms in the group talked about the chore of cleaning big windows.

"There are a lot of different thoughts and they're changing all the time," Levato said. "We want to make sure kids and teachers feel safe in their environment."

Lockers were another topic and many aren't designed for the backpacks kids haul and are not conveniently located. That means students often opt to tote their stuff with them, or drop it off at their last classroom of the day.

Everyone loves outdoor environments, but they may not be that practical.

"How often do we use them?" asked Levato. He noted outdoor classrooms aren't used in the winter and courtyards can become overgrown and a maintenance issue. However, there are ways to take advantage of the outdoor environment.