Report Details the Future of California’s K-12 Schools
(08/01/2012)

BEREKLEY, Calif. — The time to start thinking about the future of schools is now, according to a new University of California at Berkeley report released by California superintendent of public instruction, Tom Torlakson.

The UC Berkeley Center for Cities and Schools prepared the report, “California’s K-12 Educational Infrastructure Investments: Leveraging the State’s Role for Quality School Facilities in Sustainable Communities,” in order to address the needs of California’s K-12 schools.

The report analyzes school’s infrastructure policies, regulations, and funding patterns before providing recommendations that re-envision the state’s traditional construction role in K-12 infrastructure as one of modernizing facilities, supporting 21st century education and contributing to more sustainable communities, according to the report.

Torlakson is not new to school reform, when he first began as state superintendent of public instruction he created the Schools of the Future Initiative. The initiative focused on school facility program reform and high performance schools.

“I did this [recent report] because we know from research and experience that quality school facilities help to attract and retain teachers, support improved student outcomes, and provide a positive economic impact to a community,” Torlakson said in a statement.

The recent report has much to do with continuing efforts in school reform — like those adopted by the Schools of the Future Initiative — to help create a better future for students and the overall state of the educational system in California.

“California has a lot to learn about building the schools of the future — and the time to get started is now,” Torlakson said in a statement. “The way we build and maintain schools over the next generation will of course make a huge difference to our 6.3 million public school students and to the teachers and school employees who serve them. But our schools matter in other ways as well: as community centers and leaders in sustainability. That means that every dollar we invest in our school facilities is a dollar that can change the future of our state.”

Some highlights of the report include sustainable initiatives for California’s K-12 schools. The report recommends that all K-12 facilities receiving state funding should meet minimum green building criteria and support more sustainable projects.

The new vision for California’s K-12 schools requires facilities to adopt and/or support new policies, according to the report. The report suggests a list of guiding principles for educational facilities in order to enhance the achievement of all students. To support the vision of better schools in the future, new environmentally friendly design features have been discussed including promoting sustainable practices that conserve natural resources, limiting greenhouse gas emissions, optimize construction and life cycle costs and encourage biking and walking on campus.

Along with the vision to support better schools in the future, the report also notes that student learning has evolved — as should classroom space.

“Additionally, many of the educational innovations being implemented in schools across California require facilities changes to support them. These include increased project-based learning activities, wider implementation of Career Technical Education (CTE) and other ‘multiple pathways,’ increased community involvement in schools, creating more intimate learning experiences, (including small schools and small learning communities), expanding the number of themed schools, more off-campus student apprenticeships and more public charter schools (many of whom operate in spaces not originally designed as schools), according to the report.

The report highlights what many school architects have been discussing in regards to 21st century learning. The report suggests giving students and teachers more options for learning and creating flexible classroom space, as compared to a traditional classroom with rows of desks facing an instructor.

Although the vision for the future of California schools sounds great — with a big plan also comes a big bill.

The report found that about $117 billion from state and local sources are needed over the next decade to address the need for new and updated schools, eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog, and allow for preventative maintenance.

Voters approved bond measures for school construction and maintenance projects in the June 2012 election, but it will be up to them again on the November ballot or on a 2014 bond measure, according to Torlakson.

“Californians all across the state know the key role our schools play in our state’s future, and they have supported them again and again,” said Torlakson.

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