Another Great Year

In January of each year, we look towards the future trying to envision the needs, the trends, and the forecasts for education in the coming year. Since January is the month to look towards the future, then December should be the time to look back at what happened this past year.

In 2007, environmental issues were addressed and progress was made on many fronts related to sustainability and high performance schools. New facilities being constructed were LEED certified, CHPS verified, or at least designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. Concerted efforts were made to increase the use of renewable energy sources. Environmentally-friendly furniture, furnishings, and construction materials were being developed and incorporated into these new and renovated spaces. Green cleaning products and maintenance procedures were put into place, improving indoor air quality while protecting the environment. In the spring of 2007, the LEED for Schools rating system was released. Based on the LEED for New Construction rating system, LEED for Schools addresses issues such as classroom acoustics, master planning, mold prevention, and environmental site assessment. Many states are discussing, debating, or even legislating green schools. It can be said that 2007 was the year when the green building movement went from being a fad to being the future.

Rapid changes in technology continued to affect change in the learning environment. Over the last 30 years, advances in technology have created many new opportunities for education. On April Fool’s Day in 1976, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs released the Apple I computer that started the micro-generation. On August 6, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee released files describing his idea for the World-Wide-Web and making it a publicly-available service on the Internet. Many of us may still be in awe of the advances we have seen in technology, but to the students of 2007 it is just a way of life. Just as I thought I was catching up with technology, I find out that e-mail is for old people; text messaging is the “in” thing. Wireless networks, multi-media studios, applied technology labs, and alternative delivery of course materials are the norm. An elite group of schools has even become all-laptop, all-wireless, and textbook free.

Student health issues have also topped the list 2007. Not a week has gone by without the issue of childhood obesity making headline news. This should come as no surprise. Since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled, and the rates among adolescents have more than tripled. Emerging research documents the connections between physical activity, good nutrition, physical education and nutrition programs, and academic performance. In response, many schools have changed their policies on how often students attend physical education, which items go into school vending machines, which topics and skills are taught in health education, and which foods are served in the cafeteria. Another health issue in the news this year has been the reported outbreaks of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). In response, students have been coached to practice good hygiene, cover skin trauma with bandages, and avoid sharing personal items. Schools have worked to maintain a clean environment and establish cleaning procedures for frequently touched surfaces and surfaces that come into direct contact with people's skin.

We will also remember the 2006-2007 school year for the 32 school-related violent deaths in elementary and secondary schools, and would like to express our condolences to the friends and family of those who lost their life in these senseless acts of violence. In the wake of these tragedies, the question of school safety nationwide has been brought to the forefront, and schools across the nation are reviewing and improving their security plans. In November, school districts from across the country convened in Baltimore, MD, at School Planning & Management’s first School Safety and Security Workshop. This workshop would not have happened without the generous support of SimplexGrinnell, Primex Wireless, Maximus, and Keystone Industries. Many issues were addressed, and the groundwork laid for improvements in student safety now and in the future.