(Update: District denies plans for the "charette" and redesign of Jefferson.)
And what do architects know about education?
I raise both questions because it has apparently been decided that Jefferson High School should be demolished and replaced with a structure that cements in place --literally-- the four "specialized" academies that isolate students into separate learning communities with little chance of sharing resources or curricular offerings. (Thank you Nancy Smith for finding this article!)
Function follows form in school design. The architects involved in this proposal for the redesign of Jefferson know this and have acted accordingly. They proceed, however, from flawed premises about what's good for students. For example:
- They refer to the need for improved "results", especially at the high school level. "Results" means only one thing in the era of No Child Left Behind and school accountability --high test scores.
- The article reports that "several improvements in the organization of the school are already underway." First among these so-called "improvements" is the creation of the four academies.
The design team appears unaware of the community clamor for a return of Jeff to a comprehensive high school. The new design would make that all but impossible. In fact the design is more reminiscent of a small college campus, with a building for each academic specialty, than a public high school.
Charrette, by the way, is almost code for fast track design and approval. Tips for a "successful" charrette include this one:
"Allow two days with no more than six hours each day for a successful design charrette to occur."
I can assure you that will not go over well with the long-abused Jefferson community.