Thursday, June 22, 2017

Adding Personal Touches To A New School

Developing a new school building is a milestone event for any city, town or regional district.

Premium school facilities are valuable assets that play a critical role in a community’s responsibility to deliver a quality educational experience. A new school that opens in 2017 will serve pupils and families across many generations, be at the focal point of memories that last a lifetime, and deliver a return on investment for decades into the future.

That’s a huge impact on a community for just one building!

Many school districts choose to memorialize or honor this major milestone by adding personal touches or custom design features that reflect the importance of the new school to municipal officials, educators, families and students. Here are some ways your school project can include a special human touch that will involve the community and be a part of the history created when the building is completed:

Showcase a community-based mural or other piece of artwork – School building committees can commission a representative piece of artwork as part of the initial design, or the art project can be a separate initiative upon completion of construction. The theme can either represent a current moment in history or be designed to endure and be relevant through future generations.

Honor the key figures behind the school project – School boards and building committees, mayors and selectmen, capital fund drive organizers, PTOS and any other groups or individuals who have assisted in a school building project are routinely honored in some permanent way: a plaque or monument on site or a room or wing in the building named in their honor are typical.

Sign the final steel beam before it is put in place – The traditional “topping off” ceremony marks the placing of the final piece of steel superstructure on a school or other building project.  Make this more meaningful by having a signing ceremony where students, faculty and school officials sign and date the large piece of steel. Their names will be part of the building forever. We recently put in place the final beam for the new Carver Elementary School as well as the Hurld Wyman Elementary School in Woburn, which were signed by many students, teachers, and others involved in the creation of the new school- it really made the school theirs.

Be creative in naming the different sections and wings of the school – Assign the names of different neighborhoods in your community to the different wings of the school; or name one classroom for a notable member of the graduating class, and continue that tradition in the future. Use popular well-known local street names to “name” the corridors in a school. Or make up names based on inspirational and motivating words: “Respect Avenue” or “Integrity Way” or “Achievement Boulevard.”

Involve students in the process – New schools are often built on or near the site of current schools where students are learning and have a firsthand view of the progress. Just as important, the school design and construction process involves a tremendous amount of science, technology, engineering, art and math skills – providing a unique learning opportunity for students. Incorporating creative lessons into school curriculum offers students read-world examples of how these skills can be utilized.  

Place a Time Capsule- Time capsules can give students and town residents the chance to help make their school a part of history. By storing mementos, newspaper clippings, notes and letters, and other memorabilia into a sealed container and locking it away for decades it in an isolated corner or protected area of the school, the current generation of teachers and students can ensure their contributions to the school and wider community will be remembered for generations. A commemorative plaque identifying the time capsule will spark the interest and imagination of everyone waiting for its opening.

Make the groundbreaking memorable- The groundbreaking is an important part of any construction project, but it’s always a good opportunity to involve students, faculty, and officials when it’s a building as central to the community as a school. One way to do so is to invite them to the ceremony and provide everyone in attendance with a little keepsake or reminder of the big day, like keychains or hard hats. When we broke ground on the Hurld-Wyman School in Woburn, even the smallest attendees received hard hats as a souvenir.