• What do parents and teachers want?

• How can the community help design the school, then have access to it once it’s built?

• What kind of layout would students find so engaging it would make them eager to show up?

 

“Let’s not build warehouses for them,” said Ronald Bogle, president of the American Architectural Foundation and former president of the Oklahoma City Board of Education. “Let’s create environments that are uplifting, that are exciting, that are interesting.”

That sounds great to policy makers, until the question turns to money. Leaders are under pressure to ease crowding and ensure safety, which means design is often seen as a luxury.

Bogle, whose foundation leads a national drive to improve school design, said success stories need not be more expensive. The nation spends roughly $30 billion a year on school construction, he said, and “good design can be accomplished at the same price as bad design.”

At Manassas High, the halls are wide to keep students from banging into each other with their book bags. The sinks in the cooking classes are unusually deep to prevent messes. The chairs in the science labs have backs, because teachers knew the stools were not popular. And students notice the difference.

At $21 million, it’s within the typical price range of a high school. Some features saved money. The school has no auditorium, but its common area doubles as a cafeteria and a place for class performances.

What is needed nationwide, Bogle said, is awareness that schools such as Manassas High exist. Many of today’s leaders have old ideas because they attended schools built decades ago, he said.