Thu10022014

Schools

Private LASD donations enable pilot building projects


Courtesy of Los Altos School District
This rendering of the Gardner Bullis Grizzly Student Center reveals transparent walls that would provide for separation of space for small-group work. The front section would feature movable furniture and workstations for flexible use, with walls that could be written on. The interior walls would be brightly colored to create a more engaging environment for students.

Gardner Bullis and Loyola schools will undergo renovation this summer, courtesy of private donations the Los Altos School District received from local residents.

The contributions – $2.25 million at Gardner Bullis and $125,000 at Loyola – will fund upgrades and underwrite installation of innovative classroom spaces for enhanced student learning.

Superintendent Jeff Baier said the donations enable the district to create the pilot classrooms and test their efficacy, an opportunity that could inform future classroom designs for all students.

With the district considering placing a facilities bond on the November ballot, Baier said money from the bond could be applied across the district to create the classroom spaces Loyola and Gardner plan to test in the fall.

Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, said the project would not change the square footage of available space at either campus.

Gardner Bullis enhancements

At Gardner Bullis, the project includes relocation of buildings on campus, redesign of student learning spaces and professional development and use of 21st-century furniture and equipment.

The office at Gardner Bullis is scheduled to move to a more central location, where the library currently sits, and the staff room/lounge would move to the office space. The project includes redesigned spaces for more engaging learning, including new furnishings.

The teaching and learning areas will feature a library combined with a computer lab to form the Grizzly Student Center. In addition to a traditional library, the Grizzly Student Center will include space for small-group instruction and individualized learning.

“We are challenging the traditional model of libraries as single-use spaces with only shelves of books,” said Gardner Bullis Principal Katie Kinnaman. “In our collaborative world, our students approach learning very differently from prior generations. Our students interact with content, working independently and in small and large groups. The new Grizzly Student Center will enable this multifaceted interaction that is the hallmark of the 21st century. The new Grizzly Student Center will allow us to experiment with instructional technology and new modes of student engagement.”

Gardner Bullis will also explore outdoor education on campus for hands-on learning beyond the four walls of the classroom, in addition to recreational activities.

Loyola improvements

The district will explore flexible classroom spaces at Loyola, outfitting all fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms with new teacher and student furniture and equipment. Educational research informs the design of new flexible classroom furniture and equipment, which aims to expedite transitions among collaborative activities, direct instruction, small-group work and whole-group activities.

“Silicon Valley companies already know the benefits of flexible configurations for their employees,” said Loyola School Principal Kimberly Attell. “Thanks to this generous gift, we’ll have a chance to evaluate this option in the classroom to enhance student collaboration and learning.”

Educators from all of the district’s schools can observe and gather information on student use of the spaces. They can share what works, how the new configurations can enhance student learning and how professional development can ensure that innovative spaces are used to improve learning and students’ experiences.

“It’s rare to have a trial run with facilities configurations,” said Tammy Logan, president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees. “This is an excellent opportunity to better understand the implications of facility design prior to upgrading our campuses. We are appreciative of these unique public-private partnerships that continue to demonstrate the confidence placed in the district to revolutionize learning for all students.”

Baier said the donors chose to remain anonymous. He credited their contributions with assisting the district in creating “true 21st-century learning facilities” that will ultimately benefit all district students.

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