Lakota One Step Closer to Master Facilities Plan

Educational Visioning Process Puts Lakota One Step Closer to Master Facilities Plan
Posted on 03/23/2021
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Visioning RecapThe most recent series of community listening sessions, focus groups and a ThoughtExchange reinvigorated Lakota’s Master Facilities Planning (MFP) process, which was paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through all these opportunities, participants were asked to reflect on lessons learned from the pandemic that might alter Lakota’s original visioning exercise completed over a year ago. 


On March 16, a summary of that feedback gathered from students, parents and staff was shared during the first community update since Lakota’s MFP committee began reconvening in November 2020. 


“An important part of this process is envisioning how our facilities can best support teaching and learning now and into the future,” said Lakota’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Passarge. “Regardless of the short pause that we took in light of COVID, our facilities have not stopped aging and still require our attention. Signs of deterioration over time have a direct fiscal impact on the district and we need to have a solid plan to address those concerns.”


Tracy Richter, an educational visioning expert who has partnered with the district, led the presentation, sharing the residual impact of the pandemic on learning and facilities both nationally and locally. He reviewed national trends like school reopening timelines and predicted learning loss as well as a small sampling of local responses regarding learning through the pandemic. 


“In a facilities solution, how do we make sure that we are still promoting very safe environments for our kids and also address some of the catch-up that is going to be required after this interruption in learning,” said Richter, referencing such supports as building design and maintenance, health and safety, virtual versus in-person learning and transportation. 


Richter summarized how these considerations translate to facility decisions about size and capacity, types of learning spaces, delivery models and dedicated spaces for fine arts and athletics, just to name a few. 


Richter went on to review the main themes that emerged from the original visioning process a year ago, including an emphasis on such areas as mental health, diversity, technology, safety and personalized learning opportunities that emphasize communications, collaboration and innovation. He summarized the facilities strategies that emerged from those same conversations, including flexible, collaborative and student-centered spaces, community partnerships and an evaluation of grade configurations and transitions. 


When focus groups revisited this exercise, attention shifted to topics like class and learning space sizes to honor physical distancing, alternate school schedules, more flexible, multi-use learning spaces, including community usage of spaces, virtual solutions to increase capacity and creative community partnerships. 


The process continues with a plan to intersect the educational visioning findings with the facilities options ultimately presented to the school board and community. Before the facilities committee reaches this point, many more community engagement opportunities will be planned. “It’s very important to the school board that the community is involved,” said Lakota School Board President Kelley Casper. “We look forward to hearing from our teachers, families and community members as we continue this process.”


Click here to watch the complete presentation from the March 16 community visioning meeting.