About 120 people gathered at the Sheraton Delphina Hotel on Pico Boulevard last Saturday to begin the process of designing a “20-year Master Facilities Plan” for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Superintendent John Deasy opened the meeting, saying, “We committed ourselves five years ago to this exact work in our strategic planning… outstanding facilities for all students. There are golden opportunities today for reflection and projection on what we’ve done and what we have yet to accomplish…we will shape opportunities for students yet to be born, for students who are not in school yet…and for youth who about to start their education with us because we are planning for the next generation.” Bobby Hill from Concordia, LLC-a urban design, architecture and public policy planning firm- explained that the goals of this initial meeting were to get participants to think “big and bold” about school facilities planning and to inspire them and others to participate in the upcoming workshops at which the 20-year Master Facilities Plan will be crafted. Hill said that at the next workshop a “situation analysis of information on existing facilities and sites” will be introduced. The second workshop will focus on program development by “looking at the education programs and then having the education program be supported in the facilities in the community here in Santa Monica and in Malibu.” Workshop three will be an “intensive drill down to site level planning.” Between workshops two and three, there will be “very intensive work very specifically on each [school] site.” The final workshop will focus on “consensus around recommendations to finalize the master plan.” A final report will be made to the District in mid-summer.According to material distributed at the meeting, “the planning project will build upon the SMMUSD Strategic Plan of 2002, incorporating the seven initiatives for creating classrooms of the future.” The seven initiatives are abundant resources, curriculum, differentiated learning, equity and equality of education, optimal class size, schools as community centers and universal access to quality early childhood education family support programs and after school care. Input for the plan will be collected via four community surveys. To be undertaken this week, the first survey will include teachers, administrators and staff, while the second survey will solicit ideas from students and the final two surveys will include the wider community. A Community Design Center will also be set up in Suite 221 in Santa Monica Place.After hearing a presentation on innovative school facilities in other parts of the country, meeting participants got a chance to discuss “out of the box” ideas by rotating through four different discussion groups. The groups focused on schools and community – projects that could be done between schools and the community, school sites and beyond – sites outside of the schools in which classes could be held, schools as a learning tool – how people want to learn, who schools should teach and school leadership models.The other members of the of the District’s team to facilitate the creation of the Master Facilities Plan are the architecture firm of Harley Ellis Devereaux and Sidewalk Studio, a communications and marketing firm.People who would like to participate in the upcoming workshops can sign up at www.ourschoolplan.com, or call (310) 450-8338 X100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants should commit to attending all four of the remaining workshops. The next workshop will be on Saturday, February 25 at Santa Monica High School from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
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