Benefits of Community Based Master Planning: Part 2

Integrated Curriculum Community Based Master Planning

A common misconception at the beginning of a master planning process is that the process will result in specific design options for each district site. It is important to note that Master Planning is not Design. Design happens later and is guided by the master plan. The planner and planning committee may or may not be involved in those future designs. One component of the Master Plan will be a series of “Implementation Plans.” These plans may look like the beginnings of a design approach for a specific site, but they are actually conceptual diagrams illustrating the needs identified on each site and concepts of how those needs might be addressed in the future.

If the implementation plan indicates a new classroom building that might be needed in the future, this building may be indicated symbolically on the plan, but when that facility is designed, it may or may not be constructed in the location or in the configuration shown on the implementation plan. The important thing is that a need for new classroom space was identified, impacts on the overall site were considered, and a rough order of magnitude budget was established for this future development. 

Taken as a whole along with the “Guiding Principles,” previously discussed in Part 1, the district can use these identified future needs to prioritize and guide future developments in such a way that every dollar spent drives the district closer to its identified long term goal, while avoiding expensive construction that freezes the district in the past or that has to be redone later as new demands make themselves known.

In this era of scarce financial resources for schools, no one wants to waste money that could be better spent on teachers and educational programs. Long term energy planning is a key component of many of LPA’s master plans. By evaluating current power usage and considering the long term direction of the district, this is a time to establish realistic, achievable goals for renovations and new construction that are proven to result in high efficiency and lower electric bills. These considerations may include sustainable design practices requiring advanced energy modeling for future design processes, or inclusion of renewable energy resources such as photovoltaic panels, with plans for how to implement those in the most cost effective way for your school district.

There are other, less tangible benefits to undertaking a master plan but those mentioned in this post and the last, may be of the greatest value to a school district. The key intangible value is the support this process can build for the district in its community. A well designed, Community Based Master Planning Process can create broad based support for educational delivery innovations, for integration of advanced technology, for developing a broad understanding that tax dollars are being spent wisely, especially among those residents who are not natural constituents of the public schools, and finally, for support of district needs in terms of bond funding.

The best laid plans are of no value if they are not supported and can’t be funded.

If you need a way to bring your community together, if you need to build support for your public school system and give your residents a chance to see the great job public education is doing in your community, if you want to get the most out of your construction dollars by spending tax dollars on those things that bring you closest to your long term goals, you may want to consider initiating a community based, long range educational master planning process in your community.

Donald Pender, AIA brings more than 28 years of experience to his role as Principal at California-based LPA Inc. He is a LEED Accredited Professional and a Recognized Educational Facility Planner (REFP).