As we look toward the end of another epidemic in the school year, the actual cost of closing the Covid-related school has just begun to unfold.
Remote instruction has significantly slowed student progress. In addition to the apparent disruption of curriculum and similarly prolonged mental health challenges for students and staff, the effects of school closure have been felt outside the classroom.
For example, members of our own community who relied on school computers to access the Internet were suddenly without this important resource. In other instances, groups using school buildings for assemblies, such as adult walking groups, had to make other arrangements.
The closures highlight the important and multidimensional role that schools around us play. Yes, they educate the next generation, but they also provide basic social and digital functions that serve and support the entire community.
This is why seeing a school and its surroundings as a single ecosystem and placing education at the center of that unified community will provide more access and opportunities for all.
Simply put, we can’t build better neighborhoods without improving our schools – and we can’t build better schools without improving our neighborhoods.
Yet efforts to improve our neighborhood and schools have long been conducted on separate and uncoordinated tracks: one set of programs for neighborhood renewal and another, unconnected, school development strategy.
Often, this isolated approach has resulted in little improvement. In many cases, this has made matters worse.
We now have a rare opportunity to strengthen our neighborhoods and improve our schools at the same time, with hints on the horizon of historic levels of infrastructure spending – including billions of dollars in federal funding for the American community and billions of state and local funds to build schools. .
Municipalities are currently exploring how these federal dollars can be committed, keeping in mind a multidimensional approach.
Rather than focusing on individual policies and programs aimed at narrow aspects of community renewal, it is important that we begin with the understanding of schools – both physically and physically – as a cornerstone of community life.
How can we do that? Fortunately, a growing community of thinkers has already begun charting a way to strengthen the surrounding area and schools in those neighborhoods.
Related: Opinion: How targeted federal action can avoid broadband racism facing black students
The nonprofit Rimazine America Schools (RAS) has launched an interdisciplinary brainwashing of educators, technologists, designers, inventors and community leaders to call it the “Complete American Neighborhood.”
The ideas that are being developed include reconsidering the idea of having a single centralized school and instead setting up multiple learning centers across the entire community connected to the central campus in a “hub-and-spoke” system. This may involve the creation of a Hyperlocal Satellite Learning Center within walking distance of each student’s home so that they can attend classes despite the lack of transportation. Each hub will make the social and digital benefits of school buildings more widely available throughout the neighborhood.
Other initiatives, championed by the Siegel Family Endowment, involve connecting the areas around us with physical, digital and social infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st century – from growing digital divisions to widening gaps.
This approach will rearrange our community and education system as interdependent and interconnected, creating value for all community stakeholders, not just a select few. The school-sponsored ESL program, for example, is a great resource not only for first generation schoolchildren but also for their families. By expanding these programs into the community, we promote not only our next generation, but also the people around them who support them.
Partners include pioneering organizations such as Rimazin Americas School, Transcend and Education Rimazin, all aiming to usher in a new era of education.
This is an era that will consider all students, the entire school and their entire community as important participants and design partners.
As a result of this work, teachers and schools across the country are building student-centered learning models, exchanging blueprints for success, and building networks of practice.
We can’t build better neighborhoods without improving our schools – and we can’t build better schools without improving our neighborhoods.
Achieving this means engaging in politics, policies and practices that often hinder joint planning. This means giving community members a meaningful voice at the table and prioritizing their deep engagement.
It was acquired in Austin, Texas, after the city built its equity office in 2016. It now offers a number of grant programs aimed at helping grassroots and local community organizations access infrastructure funds, including equity mini-grant funds, to address systematic barriers to seed projects and the elimination of quality of life inequalities across the city.
This means designing learning spaces with an understanding of technology by tackling the school building infrastructure crisis, not designing dumb rooms and filling them with smart devices.
An example: San Diego College Preparatory Middle School opened a completely new campus two years ago after spending years building a building with improved Internet connectivity to support the emerging one-to-one device policy.
Considering how the layout of the building will affect Internet access, its wiring and servers can handle bandwidth needs, the school is now equipped to properly serve students for years ahead – especially as education is increasingly moving online.
Related: Opinion: Schools can help us build better and tackle climate change
In order for communities to truly thrive, we need to stop seeing renewable efforts and school improvement projects in our neighborhood as two completely separate areas.
Instead, city and school governments should work together and raise funds for the betterment of larger schools and communities.
Citizens and education leaders can use this key opportunity to invest in initiatives that truly move our society forward, one school at a time and one neighborhood. We cannot allow this moment to be wasted.
Ron Bogle is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit National Design Alliance, whose signature project, Rimagin America’s School, works in partnership with educators, technologists, communities and architects across the country to redesign schools for the 21st century.
Katie Knight is the Executive Director and President of the Siegel Family Endowment, where she helps focus on understanding and shaping the impact of technology on society based on her professional experience in education, technology and community-based organizations.
Produced by this piece about community school Hatchinger report, A non-profit, independent news organization focusing on inequality and innovation in education. For registration Hatchinger’s newsletter.