- Feb 20, 2018
We all know that children are our future. It is critical to focus on the success of future generations by starting with strong educational facilities. For some communities in Central Ohio, that future is one that will see significant school growth and increased enrollment. Buildings that have been maintained on a shoestring budget will now have the added challenge of maintaining those same buildings with the same cost restrictions , all while trying to make accommodations for an ever-increasing number of students. Business Development Manager Kyle Sellers shares his keys to success in preparing for the future of education.
The districts that recognize the upcoming changes are preparing for the growth ahead by embarking on a facility master planning process that examines their existing facilities and determines the viability of handling the inevitable increase in students. I’ve been fortunate to attend several facility Master Planning sessions around Central Ohio, and have compiled the common themes I see in those districts that have successfully implemented the process. Tactics for an effective implementation include the following.
- Be Engaging
Building relationships early, maintaining effective communication and consistent execution are all components to a successful process. Schedule open houses and invite community members to hear the plan and to discuss the process. Invite them to share their thoughts, concerns and fears. Do this early and do this often. Generating support early increases momentum in advocacy of your efforts, which translates to an easier master planning process. It is vital that the community understands that their input is critical to the process.
- Be Proactive
Visit community members in different venues instead of relying on them to attend open houses to hear your message. Schedule various coffee meetings, small group sessions and one-on-one meetings to achieve an open and direct dialogue with community members. A commitment to this process helps to engage those members of the community that might be hesitant to attend public forums.
- Be Realistic
To allow enough time for success, most districts start the master planning process 18 months or more in advance of any ballot issue, with a realistic view that there will be setbacks throughout the journey. Working through these challenges and solving the various concerns will make you, your team, and the district stronger.
- Be Accessible
Make sure your information is easily accessible in both tech savvy and the traditional communication channels. Post everything online, distribute physical mailers and video record every open house session. The worst feedback you can hear from voters going to the polls is “I didn’t know anything about this issue.”
- Be Transparent
You will be asking your community members to spend more money than they have in the past. The best advice I have is to be transparent about the cost, as well as the benefits. Let the community know how much the proposed construction work will cost, even if it’s a big number. It’s critical that the process is transparent and everyone is provided with a true cost benefit analysis to make an informed decision.
There are countless studies available that highlight the differences in the way children learn today in comparison to how earlier generations were educated. The challenge many districts face is that their learning environments are built around educating our youth through an early to mid-20th century lens, instead of an early 21st century perspective. Classrooms and education centers of the future need to be flexible to accommodate the changing best practices of educating students.
Regardless of the final implementation plan, many of the Central Ohio districts will be facing this same challenge in the coming years. The support from the school administration, community and parents will ultimately determine the direction a district will grow in the future. I think we can all agree that it is critical to provide our children with the educational opportunities and learning environments they need to be successful in life. Master Planning is an easy process to support when the bigger picture and end result remains the core focus.