All In: Seth Adams Offers His Take on Schools of the Future
“The future depends on what you do today.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
The process to plan and design a new school in Montgomery County takes years. Each year, the school system updates its six-year capital plan by adding renovation and capacity projects and new schools. Given the time it takes for planning and design, how do we think about the future design of schools—especially in this world that is rapidly changing. This week, guest blogger Seth Adams, the director of the Division of Construction, offers a perspective on this topic.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear “school of the future.” Does the school of the future look different or function differently? Do the classrooms look the same? How do you balance the need for transparency and flexibility with the need for security? These are all questions that researchers across the nation are investigating and we at Montgomery County Public Schools continue to ask ourselves. What we do know is that we expect great schools and great spaces within our schools to meet the needs of our students and staff.
As we move into a new era of school design and construction, we are working to ensure that we meet these expectations, while acknowledging the fiscal constraints of state and county budgets, an enrollment growth of more than 24,000 in the last decade, and the needs of our aging facilities. That is why our revised approach to school facilities is shifting to a focus on what teaching spaces are needed to meet the needs of 21st century learners. As our superintendent has said many times, the workforce demands of our students will look very different from that of their parents. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, almost two-thirds of today’s kindergarten students will eventually have occupations that don’t currently exist.
For a glimpse of what spaces may be provided in our schools of the future, we can simply look at the superintendent’s recent Capital Improvements Program request. The Seneca Valley High School project is currently under construction and, over the next year and a half, will take its final shape. The final product will not only embrace and expand the great traditions of excellence at Seneca Valley, but will also begin to take the shape of an upcounty Career and Technology Education hub.
The project is building from the momentum and success of the Thomas Edison High School of Technology facility and is being designed to provide spaces that will meet the educational needs of the industry. One such program is the Construction Education Program. Architecture, engineering and construction are all disciplines that are quickly evolving and will eventually demand a specific skill set from all levels of the workforce. At Seneca Valley, we are implementing learning spaces that will build skills in areas such as virtual reality, robotics in construction trades, and hands-on experience for future architects, engineers and construction professionals. These spaces will integrate perfectly in a building that was designed with student collaboration as a primary objective.
While we are actively involved in many exciting projects and “schools of the future” conceptual planning, we must remember that our schools are community buildings, and their shape must come from collaborative ideas from students, staff and communities as a whole. MCPS has launched a survey for this very purpose—for students and staff to engage with us about school construction and design. This survey was designed as a first step in allowing students and staff members to tell us what kinds of spaces make sense for them. We want to know where students and staff feel comfortable and where they feel they learn and teach the best.
After survey results have been received, students in all grade levels will have the opportunity to help influence design by participating in a contest allowing them to envision the future of schools. We’re looking forward to learning from our students as we work to meet their needs now and in the future.
Staff may share their feedback on Schools of the Future here.