standing Westerly High School

Sun file photo

WESTERLY —  Consultants working with the School Committee's Building Subcommittee have mapped out a method for developing an education plan that will serve as the foundation of a proposed building project.

Officials with JCJ Architecture, the architectural firm working on the project, and Fielding International LLC, an education design firm that works with JCJ Architecture, discussed the method and importance of an education plan and how to develop one during the subcommittee's meeting on Wednesday. The education plan developed for the 2019 plan that was rejected by voters will play a significant role in the new plan, said the consultants and Justin Hopkins, subcommittee chairman.

The state Department of Education asked for information on the education plan in comments it made in response to the district's Stage 1 application and an analysis of existing conditions, said Christine O'Hare, a project manager with JCJ Architecture.

Development of an education plan involves soliciting input from teachers, students, parents and other community members, said Jill Ackers, a senior designer with Fielding International LLC.

"We need a comprehensive education plan looking at buildings beyond being warm, safe, and dry, but thinking about the education of kids and generational sustainability of our community," Ackers said.

The plan and project design should address current needs but also allow for flexibility to adapt to changes in education in the future, Ackers said. The school buildings, she said, should be aligned to the district's curriculum and designed to be "focused on diverse and connected spaces that encourage joy, belonging, collaboration, and critical thinking."

The planning process should also highlight the role education plays in attracting young families and the economic benefit to the town of offering schools that parents are confident in.

"We come together as a community and as a school district to prepare students for successful futures, and that really impacts our economic viability. How do we attract new and young families into a community and create generational support and ensure real estate values?" Ackers said.

The education plan process will have to be "truncated" from the typical 3- to 6-month-long process,  Ackers said, to meet the current goal of asking voters to approve a project on the November ballot. Despite the tight time frame, Ackers said, "all voices" will be solicited and involved.

The building project should be driven by desired learning outcomes and how they are achieved, said Superintendent of Schools Mark Garceau.

"I look forward to going through the process again. We know kids need hands-on and collaborative spaces. We need  something that supports that," Garceau said.

The subcommittee also discussed sending a letter to the General Assembly asking that school building project financial incentives offered by the state be extended beyond the current scheduled "sunset" date at the end of 2022. Several districts in the state have made the same request, Hopkins said.

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