If you’ve ever seen an episode of The Brady Bunch or Happy Days, you’ll know a lot has changed in the last 50 or so years. Transportation, communication, technology and entertainment have all grown leaps and bounds since the 1970’s. Education also has changed, although you wouldn’t know that if you took a walk around Mariemont High School – a building constructed back in 1970.
With advancements in technology, learning spaces and curriculum materials, the sky is the limit for what today’s students can learn and achieve. However, if the space isn’t right, these opportunities aren’t so abundant. And there’s research to prove it. In fact, classroom design can impact learning by as much as 25 percent — for better or for worse. And the fact of the matter is, the Mariemont High School facility is failing our students and we need to take action now in order to maintain the excellence that defines our school district.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with a group of high school students about their experiences in the building, and their thoughts mirror the 18 months of research and assessment we have done in our master facility planning process. From cramped classrooms with no windows to malfunctioning toilets in the bathrooms to unreliable temperatures, the Mariemont High School facility is getting in the way of our students’ education, not enhancing it.
Both learning and teaching today have advanced well past the capabilities of our high school building. Teachers are trying to instruct in innovative and hands-on ways in the classroom with tools like virtual reality experiences, robotics and scientific equipment to teach the critical skills we know students need, but small classrooms, the lack of collaborative work spaces and faulty networks and internet connections make these lessons difficult, if not impossible. Quite simply, our students aren’t getting the same experiences that their peers in other high schools are getting.
It is true that our exceptional students and staff have managed to overcome many of these obstacles and perform well, but the advancements that are already passing us by will only continue to slip further out of grasp as the years go by if we don’t take steps now to address them. We need to not only consider how the high school affects students today, but also how it will affect students tomorrow and beyond.
Mariemont High School students need classrooms that can be configured for optimal learning. They need plumbing that functions and HVAC units that keep the building at comfortable temperatures to limit classroom distractions. And they need to have spaces for collaboration, scientific study and project-based learning.
Mariemont City Schools is an extraordinary school district and we all want to give our students every advantage to succeed. The needs at the high school are real and must be addressed if we want to maintain excellence and ensure that our students are ready for tomorrow and beyond.