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In The News: Baltimore City Schools Studies The Lessons from the Cincinnati Public Schools Facilities Master Plan

The Cincinnati Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI) hosted representatives from Baltimore City Schools’ visit to Cincinnati August 5-6, 2013. Baltimore in partnership with the state of Maryland, is embarking on a school replacement plan for its 88,000 students in 186 buildings.

Read more about the Baltimore plan at:

FinalPassagePressRelease.pdf
10YrPlan-ImplementationStrategy-DetailedOverview.pdf

Michael Burson of FMPS participated in a discussion with the Baltimore visitors entitled “Building Schools as Community Learning Centers”. As the project administrator for the implementation team, I emphasized that finding a way for effective community involvement in the design of each school had to be included into the project implementation plan. Here are some excerpts from the presentation and discussion:

CPS’ Schools Now Recognized as Successful and Sustainable Models for Community Learning Centers “As a result of CPS engaging the community in a meaningful way, students now have direct access to much needed medical, dental and vision care right in their school building. Additionally, there are many opportunities for students to participate in healthy after school activities that are educational and provide them with positive social interaction with each other instead of being unsupervised in the streets.

Your Building Plan Must Allow For Genuine Engagement
“In the early stages of our program, while we were building the process as we went, Darlene [Kamine, Executive Director for the CLCI] and I created a guideline for genuine community engagement. It is more than inviting the community to attend one or two input sessions and then come back and see the results at the dedication.”

The Engagement Process is Separate and Must Precede the design process.
“The engagement should take place before the architect is brought in to start design. The community must know precisely what decisions it can impact and which ones it cannot change.”

Timing is Critical
“The message I want to impress on everyone is that if you do not proceed with all aspects of the project on a timely basis, including the engagement part, at the end of the day, someone’s needs will not be met. When this occurs, nothing could be more devastating to a community and the schools. It creates division and inequities that will take the schools and the community many years to overcome.”

Incorporating Community Engagement into the Construction Project Would Not Be Possible Without Support at the Top
This work would not have been possible without the strong support of the Board but especially the Superintendent. The 4 Superintendents that led CPS through the implementation of the plan all understood how providing critical social support for the students and their families absolutely helps students do better in school. The Superintendents provided strong direction that the buildings belong to the community and not the staff. The community had to sign off on the designs before they were presented for Board approval. So effective community engagement became just as important as being on time and on budget for the implementation team.

Visit our Resources page for links to organizations focusing on facility planning, school design, community engagement, and other pertinent topics.