The Boothbay-Boothbay Harbor Community School District building exploratory committee connected around 30 teachers, students, parents and community members over Zoom Jan. 6 for an educational visioning session. The workshop was the first in a series of three which will be held throughout the month to give the CSD direction for its buildings, campus and educational programming.
David Stephen of New Vista Designs and Kim Carter of QED Foundation are facilitating the workshops for Lavallee Brensinger school architects, seeking input for the future of the Boothbay Region Elementary, Middle and High schools. The three January workshops are only part of LBPA and its partners’ process since BRHS and BRES have had two workshops each so far and there have been open lines of communication with school administration, said Carter.
“The educational and architectural goals … are what we will be presenting to the community at large for consideration and will have a direct and tangible impact on the design approach developed for the CSD,” Stephen said. “It's really about you all creating priorities for your community, your district.”
The educational visioning portion has four focus areas which have been a big part of the workshops with teachers, said Carter: greatest hopes, elements of powerful learning, digging into future-ready teaching and learning with present and future practices, and future-ready learning goals. “Beginning with the development of a profile of a graduate. We've had some really fantastic conversations … and we'll be taking those further together.”
The 2.5-hour session broke participants into eight groups to discuss education. Groups were created at random, but most had a teacher or school administrator or both, some had students, and all groups had members of the community. Between two breakouts, one at the start of the workshop and one at the end, Stephen held an interactive exercise which let participants submit answers to questions in real time. The substance of the exercise will be available on the BEC’s website, said Stephen.
At the end of the workshop, someone from each group presented the talking points and questions from the breakout sessions. BRES Vice Principal Matt Lindemann said his group felt both schools have “mastery of academics” as one of their top priorities, but during educators’ earlier workshops, there was a much stronger emphasis on that from BRHS educators than from BRES educators. Lindemann said the group considered the shift in focus might be due to the pandemic, but consistency between both schools will be key.
“We also talked about … looking for a nice linear progression making sure those different levels – elementary, middle and high school – have their own identities, but also making sure that there's connection across that, that the K-12 goals are similar and developmentally appropriate.”
Community member Shawn Lewin said the CSD’s willingness to collaborate with the community has to be met with interest from within the community especially because no one, including teachers and school administration, knows what that looks like yet. “It’s a two-way street. I think many of us have to just figure out how to take the initiative to offer our interests, our resources and our time … When any of us get involved, we'll find places where we'll get engaged and become interested and then we'll become much more a part of it.”
BRES teacher Jessica Lessner said her group agreed while both schools already prioritize engaging students in their own learning goals, involving the community will only strengthen what the CSD has to offer. “We mentioned 'community' so many times that we really need to make our building more welcoming and let people know they can step through the door. One of our group said, 'They don't know that they're welcome until they step in the door. How do we make it so they walk in?'”
Lessner quoted BRHS student Suzie Edwards: “It’s very important to integrate new learning. Hands-on learning is really important for me. With remote learning last year, it was really hard for me to focus and hands-on learning can go home with me or I can do it at school.”
BRES Principal Shawna Kurr said her group recognized the need for all three schools – BRHS, BRES and the Middle School which is enveloped by the BRES building– to have their own identities. Kurr said as a result of the discussion, she and BRES faculty want to go back to the drawing board with educational visioning to take the oft-forgotten Middle School into account. “That's really what is missing, the middle school voice and one of our priorities is to create a middle school identity.”
The group discussions are designed especially to consider new ideas, missing pieces and anything that is overlooked and to flesh those out, Stephen said. Visioning needs to happen organically and cannot be dictated from anyone from the outside, he said.
“It's all connected to what your teachers value, what your communities value and what your students value … We want to create a big picture and game plan and then assist you moving towards it in incremental phases both educationally and in terms of the architectural piece in all of this.”
The second workshop will be at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 19 and its focus will be on architectural approaches. To participate, call Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98’s central office at 633-2874 or email email@example.com to sign up.