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November 15, 2007

Comments

Bryan Maersch

Given that thought process, would it not make sense to expand Franklin High School with an additional floor or two. Why waste more land on a new High School when we could better utilize the space we have by going up instead of out.

John

I'm not acquainted at all with the rules and regulations for a school building. I imagine that the requirements that come with the Americans With Disabilities Act might make it less cost-effective to go higher than two floors, for instance.

Terrence Berres

The question, though, is why the siting and design criteria you advocate should apply in evaluating even a coffee shop, but not in evaluating the next school referendum.

John

The answer is (to repeat): I'm not acquainted at all with the rules and regulations for a school building. I imagine that the requirements that come with the Americans With Disabilities Act might make it less cost-effective to go higher than two floors, for instance.

If it IS cost effective (in terms of the amount of elevators and other non-stair conveyances that would have to be installed; SAFE in terms of evacuation procedure, etc.), then by all means build upward.

Daily entrance and egress plus all-day inter-building room shuffling for multi-hundred students has to be treated differently than that of a few dozen coffee shop patrons.

Frankly, that was kind of an odd question, Terrence.

Terrence Berres

That's an odd answer if you mean, as you seem to, that the new urbanism, or new suburbanism, has something to say about the siting and design of everything, except public schools.

John

I write this for the benefit of others looking in rather than specifically for you, Terrence, because I recognize that you are, as per habit, playing the provocateur.

After all, given the Catholic Church emphasis of your own blog, you surely cannot miss the irony in your pointing out “odd answers.” (I speak from experiencing 12 years of Catholic schooling as well as a seven-year stint as altar boy for the prestigious 10am Sunday Mass at St. Mike’s. I’m also recognized as the only St. Mike’s altar boy to record TWO successful sacramental host “catches” on my platen during a single Eucharistic distribution.)

You could not be so shallow as to ignore a basic fact: What's good for a grocery store or cafe - - or ANY commercial building, for that matter - - is not necessarily good and/or appropriate for a school building. Apples and oranges. I commented on encouraging developers to bbuild commercial structures UP rather than out; you are attempting to apply the same comments to - - a school building?

Normally, I'd stop there, but your habits precede you so I'll go ahead and get pedantic.

I've twice mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act; you have studiously ignored that factor - - one which any public school building must contend. Four story high school building? Great - but will it meet regulations?

To respond in your EXACT phraseology (which is apparently required): New urbanism or new suburbanism - - let's gather them under the "smart growth" label - - has something to say about the siting and design of everything, INCLUDING public schools. However, no one extolling these principles is so simple-minded as to assume a school should be treated like a coffee shop, and practitioners of smart growth are sensitive to safety issues - - and subject to federal regulations - - like everyone else.

So, should we put revenue-generating apartments above the high school ala a commercial building? No.

In other words, the principles of smart growth are, thankfully, not laid out Children’s Simplified Catechism-style; there is no pat answer that applies to all “buildings” in general. It’s all about how those buildings are going to be used, what sort of access is required, what overriding regulations must be observed, etc.

Here are just a few smart growth principles regarding schools:

- A school is the most important civic building in a neighborhood. It should be designed and sited accordingly.

- A school should never be more than a 15-minute SAFE walk away from any home. Busing costs us over $400 PER STUDENT annually; in Franklin, students living a few hundred yards from school are bussed in.

- Mega-schools should be eliminated in favor of more, smaller neighborhood-based schools. This is occurring, for example, in Philadelphia and New York in response to studies showing that schools with under 400 students have lower drop-out rates, better attendance, and often better test scores.

- The TOP of our federal funding hierarchy is new road and highway construction (NOT upkeep and maintenance); near the BOTTOM is public school funding. That equation should be flipped.

Ambitious goals. And, I believe, worthwhile goals. However, I don't know that you'll find explicit language in any referendum asking whether the general population wants to pursue them.

EDIT - D'oh! Misspelled "altar" - TWICE - the first time through!

Greg Kowalski

"Given that thought process, would it not make sense to expand Franklin High School with an additional floor or two. Why waste more land on a new High School when we could better utilize the space we have by going up instead of out."

Bryan - a decent question. However, it should unfortunately be noted that governments and developers tend to sway away from building up - they claim it costs more money to do so instead of simply building outwards.

In saying this, remember that plenty of high schools are 2-or-more stories in height. Pius XI High School would probably take the crown in building heights - they are, I believe, 6 stories.

Terrence Berres

"What's good for a grocery store or cafe - - or ANY commercial building, for that matter - - is not necessarily good and/or appropriate for a school building."

And to say it is not necessarily good or appropriate is different than demonstrating that it is, in fact, not good or appropriate.

"I've twice mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act; you have studiously ignored that factor - - one which any public school building must contend."

You've merely cited it without showing its impact is significantly different applied to school buildings compared to other buildings.

"Four story high school building? Great - but will it meet regulations?"

That would be the question. We do see such school buildings in some older city and inner suburban neighborhoods, and at universities.

"So, should we put revenue-generating apartments above the high school ala a commercial building? No."

Now that you mention it, that's an interesting idea, and you haven't shown why it couldn't or shouldn't be done. Perhaps some school families or school employees would be among those who would consider living there.

"A school is the most important civic building in a neighborhood. It should be designed and sited accordingly."

It would seem to follow, then, that it would be better if a school referendum wasn't a dollar figure and generalities.

I assume a trend toward smaller schools would make for smaller attendance districts and shorter walks, or shorter bus rides for that matter. I wouldn't rush to this as a design principle based on early results from a couple of large cities.

John

Ah, Terrence, you task me. I'll pass on taking the bait further, however. Fool me once, shame on you ...

You are on the right track, though.

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