February 28, 2018

Schools Prepare for Facilities Referendum, With Designs and New Learning Paradigms

By Donald Gilpin

As Princeton Public Schools prepare to submit preliminary designs to the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) in preparation for the October 2 Facilities Referendum, the need for more space is clear, but the question of what sort of space is still under discussion.

PPS Superintendent Steve Cochrane emphasized widespread participation in the planning process. “We are particularly pleased with the level of involvement from our students, our staff, and our community in helping shape the plans for the referendum. We have established a direction С from designing classrooms that will allow for more flexible learning to enhancing facilities for athletics to incorporating commitment to sustainability С that will support the skills our students need to flourish now and in the future.”

Commenting on the coordination of educational and practical goals, Cochrane continued, “Interestingly, it is those same skills С creativity, collaboration, authentic problem-solving С that we are modeling as a community as we work together to develop the most educationally and
economically sound referendum possible. We look forward to continued community engagement, particularly when our architectural team returns in a few weeks for its third visit.”

The district website states, “An inspiring physical space transforms the way students learn,” and goes on to ask, “How can we rethink when, where, and how learning happens?”

Recent letters in the Town Topics Mailbox have expressed concerns about new designs planned for Princeton High School going the direction of the open classrooms of the past, but a notice posted on the district website last week titled “Facilities Referendum: What Are Adaptable Spaces?” makes a sharp distinction between open spaces and the adaptable spaces that the PPS schools are moving towards.

“As we finalize our designs for the proposed facilities referendum in October, we want you to know that ‘open classrooms’ are a thing of the past and not what we are working towards,” the notice states. “Instead we are upgrading our spaces to be flexible and adaptable to the kind of learning our students and teachers need to do today.”

The architects, who will be presenting preliminary designs in focus groups and a public meeting in mid-March, “are designing spaces for collaboration and creativity, with walls where we need them and furniture that moves and adjusts.”

The architects and school administrators will also be sharing more information about the proposed new school planned for grades five and six on the Valley Road site. PPS will submit its preliminary building plans to the DOE in April. No cost estimates have yet been determined.

“We firmly believe that it’s our students and teachers who make excellence happen in our schools every day, and we want to give them the best tools and resources, from curriculum to the spaces used for learning,” the PPS website notice concludes.