The Holistic Role of K12 Schools

Students spend thousands upon thousands of hours in school before graduation. Because of this, schools are uniquely positioned to identify and mitigate daily physical and mental health issues, as well as offer meaningful support during manmade or natural disasters.

Many people forget just how holistic schools are, to begin with; they think schools are just a place for learning. But the fact is, many schools provide legitimate medical services, food, laundry facilities, physical activity, and more.

From the perspective of professionals in the school building design industry, this article seeks to introduce how building design can practically integrate design principles that help mitigate acute student mental-health concerns.

Flexibility can be the Antidote to Uncertainty

To successfully achieve a holistic school approach, your programming must be highly adaptable to the needs of specific students. From a design perspective, the same is true – modern school facilities need flexible learning spaces that can rapidly adapt to support the needs of students across grade levels and a range of abilities.

Acute events or disruptions to the academic year (e.g., disease, gun violence, extreme weather) may require different design responses such as social distancing or smaller, more personal breakout spaces. For example, during COVID-19, many gyms were repurposed as educational spaces and school parking lots became food distribution sites.

Tailoring Spaces to the Needs of Students

Designing a school from a holistic perspective entails tailoring your spaces to meet the needs of the most vulnerable students, namely those experiencing personal hardship such as housing instability, hunger, and even domestic abuse.

Supportive and restorative spaces can have a real impact on the lives of these students. Simple additions, such as private showers, washing machines, and food pantries can support students in need.

The physical environment can also better support students when equipped with enhanced acoustics, superior lighting, and comfortable breakout spaces for problem-solving and collaboration. Ultimately, a learning space effectively tailored to the needs of its students will be able to actively respond to a broad set of students' physical, mental and educational needs.

Safety Through Visibility

Safety is another aspect of holistic design, and designing for line-of-sight is one of the most direct ways of achieving this. It requires thinking carefully about how well students, teachers, and staff will see each other throughout the space.

This mindset can lead to decisions such as removing turns, alcoves, and unnecessary blind spots. Longer hallways may allow adults to detect bullying and harassment more quickly and prevent students from participating in risky behavior!

Start Experiencing These Benefits

If you want help designing a school from the ground up or redesigning your existing one for more positive outcomes with a holistic approach, CMBA Architects can help! We'd love to hear the goals you have for your K12 school and design a facility that makes a positive impact on the lives of your students and staff!

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