The Nuances of Education Facilities for Rural School Districts
Throughout the western states, K-12 education facilities face different challenges in rural areas
As educational facility specialists, Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA) has been closely following the dynamic changes a global pandemic is having on our communities. The shift to remote learning has affected primary and secondary school students and their families as well as teachers, staff, administrators, and our communities.
Our passion for this building type has given us a deep understanding of the challenges facing school districts and in particular, rural ones. Rural school districts face a number of obstacles different than those of their suburban counterparts. Typically, rural school districts build fewer buildings and also face the constraints of outdated infrastructure, slow broadband, declining enrollments, and fewer teachers and courses.
The school districts are more challenged to finance capital projects such as building new schools and making major renovations to existing ones. “We know we must design to stakeholder budget and needs,” explains Curtis Livingston, Project Architect. “The key is communication. Our approach is to listen, understand, problem solve, and articulate a creative design solution in helpful ways so school board members can make informed decisions.”
A school building must be designed to be durable, functional, and relevant for decades. Design charettes with educators helps CMA understand district curriculum and then share new methodologies for teaching and learning. “Our clients rely on us to help them understand the trends. 21st Century learning spaces mean a new approach to building layout and curriculum delivery,” asserts Kyle Mendoza, Project Manager. “When a client wants to shift to a new model for curriculum and instruction, we can advise them how to do it.”
Integrating technology into classrooms means our design solutions must not only meet current technology needs but also anticipate inevitable future changes. Teachers and students today may use interactive boards, screens, laptops, maker spaces, and computer labs, and classroom designs must support the advancements. “We have a responsibility to our client to ensure a school is designed with a robust infrastructure to support everchanging technologies,” states Curtis. Adding power and data to an existing building can be costly. “Put that infrastructure in now!” encourages Kyle. “Then you can have the maximum tech and curriculum flexibility.”
CMA recognizes investing in a school building is also an investment in the community. Beyond educating, schools serve as the social, recreational, and cultural foundation of their communities. That’s why our design team interacts not only with school administrators but with members of the community to learn of rural-specific opportunities to capitalize on tight-knit communities.
While COVID makes travel and in-person difficult, CMA education team members have found they’re well suited to virtual client meetings and remote coordination. “We use BIM 360 to its fullest to host all of our architectural and engineering models,” describes Kyle. “With all our documents hosted in the cloud, we can work and access information anywhere.”
No matter how big or small the project, each project deserves and gets our full attention. We know no school district is the same but our desire and ability to provide innovative, flexible, dynamic and engaging learning environments for teachers and students is strong. “Hire and trust the expertise,” suggests Kyle. “Be sure you can trust that the firm you hire has the best interests of your students, staff, and community in mind.” We’re confident you’ll enjoy the experience of working with us.