It happens to many school districts: The curriculum and technology advance at breakneck speed, yet the facilities lag behind. Each year, classrooms become less capable of handling curricular changes, and labs weaken in their ability to adapt to advances in learning. The corridors start to look dated, the façade shows signs of its age, HVAC systems falter. The list goes on and on.
To compound the problem, community members, many of which have attended the facilities themselves, may feel an attachment to parts of the campus. Maybe it’s a gymnasium or a theater. It could be a canopy or a clock tower.
The community-driven master plan acts as a guide for districts and schools to bring new life to aging campuses, while also respecting those beloved monuments. When facility users (including students) and community members participate in the planning process, it gains momentum and increases referendum success.
LaSalle-Peru Township High School District 120 (LaSalle, Illinois) recently confronted a problem like this. Its high school campus was starting to show its 90 years, and it hadn’t had a major expansion in over fifty years. Moreover, many members of the community had strong feelings about the campus’s iconic clock tower, theater, and stadium.
Legat Architects and Kmetz Architects led a community collaborative process that brought together many stakeholders (including community members) to address these issues. Specific sessions included the following:
- An “Engagement Session” included a “movie night” with video clips that described the future of learning, along with group discussions.
- An “Envisioning Session” challenged groups to discuss what the future of learning could look like. Groups brainstormed concepts for different parts of the facility, ranging from the entry and cafeteria to the media center and learning labs.
- A “Concepts Session” challenged participants to create and prioritize campus expansion.
- A “Transform Session” refined three options, and participants voted on the ones that best met their goals.
The outcome of all this was a master plan strongly supported by those who participated. It includes major additions, renovations, and learning environment enhancements, but it also maintains those parts of the campus that are valued in the community.
The district created the following video that introduces the plan. The video celebrates LaSalle-Peru High School’s history, explores its values, and stresses the need for campus upgrades.
At the April 15, 1928 dedication of the LaSalle-Peru campus, the Honorable Francis G. Blair said, “The civic spirit of a people can be measured by what they do for their children.”
The L-P master plan, which has the future of the district’s students at its heart, embodies that spirit.