School Building Week

Editor’s Notebook — 688 words School Building Week

April was a busy month for most of us — filled with spring breaks, income taxes and School Building Week activities. For some of you, spring break may have been the highlight. For me, School Building Week made the month a great one. Having been involved since its inception 14 years ago, I have watched this program grow from an idea to a national celebration.

School Building Day (originally a one-day celebration) was established in 1992 by the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) to draw attention to the important role that school buildings play in the education of our children. The call went out to the parents, the public and the politicians to take notice of building inadequacies and classroom conditions that negatively impact learning; to develop partnerships that focus on the effective planning, operation and management of school buildings; and to take a proactive role in the improvement of schools.

Early School Building Day celebrations included activities to spruce up neighborhood schools, like volunteering to clean up the playground or planting flowers, poster contests for the students and media campaigns to get the attention of parents and politicians. Out of those small, one-day celebrations grew School Building Week. Engaging educational associations, industry partners, government agencies and school districts of every size, School Building Week creates an even greater public awareness of the importance of well-planned, high-performing, healthy and sustainable schools that enhance student success and community vitality.

This year’s School Building Week events included:

• Healthy Schools Day — focusing on creating safe, secure and healthy environments;

• Historic Schools Day — engaging students in lessons about the history of their community and what took place in the nation during the decade their school was built;

• Senior Citizens in Schools Day — spotlighting the community's cultural heritage and inviting senior citizens to share this legacy with students; and

• Schools as Centers of Community Day — celebrating public/private partnerships that facilitate outstanding schools that serve as centers of their community.

School Building Week also offered the opportunity to illustrate the kind of creativity that our students bring to the design process through a student design competition. Dedicated architecture students, architects and school planners contributed their time by mentoring students through the competition. This year, Washington, DC, northern Virginia and Montgomery County (MD) public school students participated in the competition. The students displayed their models and were honored in a ceremony hosted by the American Federation of Teachers. The competition gave these students an opportunity to think about the learning environment, understand the elements of school planning and design, express their creativity and demonstrate where they think they can learn best. In fact, one of the districts is planning to incorporate the ideas of its student into the design of its new school.

2006 School Building Week Student Award Winners

Award of Excellence John Philip Sousa Middle School, DCPS

Award of Excellence Walter Johnson High School, MCPS

Award of Distinction The Gereau Center, Franklin County, VA

Award of Merit Barnard Elementary School, DCPS

Honorable Mention Stuart Hobson Middle School, DCPS

Honorable Mention Johnson Jr. High School, DCPS

Facilities are important, and these kids deserve the best we can build. To quote Barbara Worth, associate executive director of the CEFPI Foundation and Charitable Trust, and the person who spearheads School Building Week efforts,“Schools are places of great hope. Indeed, they are the building blocks of our nation. Sustainable schools support culture, the community and the environment; in short, they encourage smart growth and healthy communities. Today, we have an opportunity to create effective learning environments that reflect the community’s unique assets, as well as its needs; serve as a resource of education, health and human services to students and neighborhood members alike; and strengthen community life.”

We here at School Planning & Management are proud to be sponsors of School Building Week. The 2006 program was a huge success and, just like taxes, School Building Week will take place again in April 2007. I suggest you put it on your calendar and plan to get involved!