School and business leaders say that innovation and communication will be key as discussions to possibly build a new Riverwood International Charter School start to take shape.
“We have an opportunity to start with a clean sheet of paper,” said Principal Robert Shaw at an April 26 forum in the high school auditorium.
Riverwood is on tap to receive a $33 million renovation and 26-classroom addition as a result of a one-penny education sales tax approved by voters in 2011.
But the school has undergone extensive renovations and add-ons in its 43 years, so the Fulton School Board is considering using the money to build the first phase of a new school.
Patrick Burke, deputy superintendent of operations for Fulton Schools, described the April 26 program as the “beginning of a journey,” with the goal of jump-starting discussion around building a vision for a new school. With that in mind, a handful of school and business leaders took to the stage to talk about ideas to keep in mind when discussing a new building design.
“We have an opportunity for a unique design and we want to get it right,” Burke said.
Additional community forums are scheduled for May 7 and 14 at 7 p.m. to continue discussions on the school’s design. The board also plans to conduct interviews with students, parents and administrators, and hold “design camps” for children, and then review input and potential plans in late summer.
Ehab Jaleel, executive director of Amana Academy Charter School in Alpharetta, said that the design of the building should carry the same level of importance as anything else during the construction. He said the design should “find ways to promote a sense of adventure,” which in turn keeps children engaged and focused.
“You can build the most tremendous building, and so what,” said Dr. Phil Lanoue, superintendent of the Clarke County School System.
He said that children can learn anywhere if “untethered from a classroom.” Pointing to a slide of children in a Clarke school using laptops in the lobby, Lanoue said that schools should instill a sense of learning the minute a student walks through the door.
Lanoue said that schools need to recognize rapid changes in technology and the digital world. For instance, students in Clarke schools are sent home with iPads.
Laura Deisley, co-founder at Reimagine-Ed and director of strategic innovation at The Lovett School, also stressed that learning is not “in one classroom.”
She said that Lovett recently won a grant that will enable a program for students to get out of the classroom and use the “city as a laboratory.”
“Why do schools need to change?” she asked. “They need to change because the world changed.”
“Innovation is key,” said Scott Sanchez, vice president of innovation at First Data. He said that schools should give children a place to innovate and a place to work hands-on, solving world issues and problems.
Dr. Henrik Christensen from Georgia Tech’s College of Computing also noted that special attention should be placed on the design because the “space will be here for decades.” He said the new space should enable the students to take on challenges.