Community Partnerships in School Design

Community Partnerships in School Design

On March 14th 2013, Darryl Rewniak and I gave a presentation at the spring conference of the Council of Education Facilities Planners International (CEFPI) – northwestern chapter. ACI Architects was invited to speak on the topic of designing schools in collaboration with local partners in the community as stakeholders, within the context of the Alberta Schools Alternative Procurement (ASAP) delivery model.

Examples include the co-location of a public school and separate school, where dedicated program spaces such as Career and Technology Studies (CTS) labs are shared thereby offering greater options to students, gymnasia can be opened up into a single vast tournament or community gathering space, and building systems’ can benefit from economies of scale. In the particular example of a new school in Beaumont Alberta, the Town is funding a 170m2 suite of professional offices dedicated to Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) programs. This block that also includes conference and multi-purpose spaces has direct access from the exterior for year-round operation, as well as a direct internal link to the general offices of both the Black Gold Regional Division school and the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic school.

Fort McMurray Public and Catholic School Districts have come together on a 1200-student facility to which the Town is adding a 3000m2 community centre that includes daycare, fitness, dance and office functions. As part of Chinook’s Edge School Division in the south-central part of Alberta, the new Penhold school will benefit greatly from an immediate adjacency to and integration with the Penhold Multiplex – a state-of-the-art regional sports and recreation facility that includes a full-size arena, gymnasium and community library.

The City of Red Deer adds a prominently-sited, full-service community library to the new public school, an amenity into which the Red Deer Public School District has blended its own library allocation. Further opportunities for such partnerships include the sharing amenities with community colleges, development of a health unit, technology centre or special education facilities. Joint-use agreements between school boards and communities have existed in the past to optimize use of school amenities – this initiative encourages further innovation on behalf of the boards and of the cities and towns.

Ministry of Education criteria for such initiatives includes a compatibility of the proposed functions with the schools’ mandate of learning and health promotion and with their role as community resource, that the partner be a not-for-profit organization and be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and renewal (M&R) for the duration of the concession (possibly twenty-five or thirty years).

Challenges and benefits of this approach are numerous: economies of scale, expanded learning opportunities and health benefits for students, accelerated design and construction milestones as part of provincial delivery targets, consistent province-wide technical design standards, higher utilization rate of community functions and streamlining of partner politics and priorities.

We would be pleased to present in full to your organization the benefits and considerations of implementing such a partnership. – Ron Nemeth