As a spinoff to our district motto, Dedicated to Excellence, the staff of the Urbana City School District has implemented the theme Building Excellence as we not only prepare to design and build new schools for our students, but also examine and improve our instructional practices. During the next two and a half years our goal is to make our schools the learning places that our students deserve.
With the implementation of new state standards within the past few years, the district had begun reviewing our instructional programming focusing on providing high quality instruction every day in each classroom. In the fall of 2014, this work became even more important as the Urbana City School District community made a commitment to the future generations of our students by passing a bond issue to build two new school buildings.
As a starting point our School Community Visioning Team of approximately 45 students, teachers, administrators, and community members met last March for three days of intense facilitated workshops to create an educational vision for the district. The work of this group is intended to guide the long-term development of both education opportunities and school facilities for our students.
This group identified the following guiding principles:
Creating flexibility in facilities, scheduling, and curriculum;
Maintaining the shift towards research-based, innovative, and student-centered learning practices that are active and applied;
Preparing our students for the 21st Century rapid changes, global competition, and virtually unlimited access to information;
Continuing to build and strengthen relationships with students, families, and the community; and
Creating lifelong learners of both the students and the adults in the school.
Project-based, small-group work with student collaboration was also identified as one of the most effective instructional models for the way students learn. Interdisciplinary learning and internships were also practices that were noted as necessary to provide quality educational experiences for our students.
Using this visioning work as a guide, two design teams, one for each new structure, worked this past fall to create the general floor plan layout of each school. At the elementary and middle school building, grade levels will be housed in learning communities where they will have the flexibility to share collaborative space for group projects, presentations, or even individual work. The high school will also have this flexible learning area for students and teachers to use collaboratively.
As we continue through the design development phase for our new schools, staff members throughout the district are meeting to share their input on the details of the building plans. At the same time we are working to address the instructional practices that will allow the best use of these new buildings as we continue our job of building excellence.
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