From Here to There: A Journey Towards Excellence and Equity in Philadelphia

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

1 LU

The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) leadership believes that education is the key to fostering equity in society, and that education itself must be equitable. Driven by an urgent commitment to shepherd systemic change, SDP and DLR Group created a framework to guide new construction or renovation of its schools. This framework, encompassing new Educational Specifications and Design Guidelines, represents a groundbreaking shift in how the District and its principals, teachers, staff, administration, and students view their built environments. By way of meaningful collaboration, these new standards reflect a clear vision for planning, designing, and constructing urban schools of the future - facilities that align with the District’s commitment to educating and graduating generations of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, and change makers. The eighth largest school system in the nation, SDP encompasses more than 203,000 students, 19,000 employees, and 326 schools. Delivered in a panel format, comprising School District representatives as well as members of the DLR Group project team, the discussion will cover how:

  • The Design Guidelines and Educational Specifications were developed simultaneously as a “how to” guide, setting the District up for major capital investment.
  • The Educational Specifications address the realities of large class sizes, while also aiming for high quality and equity.
  • The Educational Specifications support innovative space use and allow for evolution as teaching and learning modalities change over time.
  • The Educational Specifications and Design Guidelines reflect consensus around thoughtful innovation.
  • The “Program Generator” is a tool to customize space programs, while also supporting equity across the system.
  • The Design Guidelines are a comprehensive and user-friendly manual for designers.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Examine educational spaces to determine how to best accommodate an evolving educational pedagogy.
  2. Describe how concern for flexibility is driving the need to redefine and reconfigure educational facilities.
  3. Apply practical solutions, techniques, and strategies to plan and create dynamic learning environments.
  4. Define and explain what is required to make new and renovated facilities learning centers while embracing changes to educational delivery models and taking into consideration quality of space and occupants.

Mary Lee, ALEP, Educational Facilities Planner, School District of Philadelphia
Mary is an Educational Facilities Planner for the School District of Philadelphia, Office of Capital Programs. Over the past 18 years, she has been involved in nearly 100 PK-12 projects, including renovations, modernizations, additions and new construction, from Pre-Design through Construction Close Out. Recently, she was the lead in the development of the Educational Specifications document for the School District of Philadelphia. Mary is an educator at heart, and prior to coming to Capital Programs in 2003, she taught multiple grades and disciplines, as well as worked as a Community Coordinator, School to Career Administrator and Teacher/Principal Coach. She currently serves as President for the Chesapeake Bay/Delaware Valley Chapter and President Elect for the Northeast Region of the Association for Learning Environments, as well as serving on the ALEP Commission.

Nicole Ward, AIA, NCARB, Design Manager, School District of Philadelphia
Nicole is the Design Manager for the School District of Philadelphia, Office of Capital Programs. Over the past 5 years, she led a team of 13 highly performing architects, engineers, and school facility planners. Her portfolio includes over 300 Capital projects and a budget of over $750 M. The projects include new construction, additions, major renovations, modernizations, major systems upgrade, energy upgrades, and storm water management program. Nicole also assists private and nonprofit organizations who have interest in improving various schools across the District.

Leigh Anne Clark, Operations Manager, School District of Philadelphia
Leigh Anne was appointed Operations Manager within the Office of Capital Programs in July 2008. In this role, her responsibilities include the oversight and direction to the School District planning, design, construction, and delivery of District’s 1.8B Capital Improvement Program. Ms. Clark also serves as the School District liaison to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for major construction and alteration projects. Leigh Anne has served the School District in various capacities for more than 38 years.

Troy Glover, ALEP, LE Fellow Education Planner | DLR Group
Troy is an educational planner with more than 20 years’ experience. He has served some the nation’s largest educational communities including school districts in Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; New Orleans, LA; Long Beach, CA; Baltimore, MD; Providence, RI; and Pittsburgh, PA. Troy has discussed educational planning trends at the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) and California Association of School Business Officials Annual Conferences. He has also co-authored several articles on urban issues in School Planning & Management. Troy serves on the Morris College Board of Trustees and the A4LE International Board of Directors. He is a graduate of Morris College and The Ohio State University.

Marilyn Denison, Ed.D. Education Planner, DLR Group
As an educational planner, Marilyn brings a unique perspective to DLR Group, having served as an educator and district administrator for more than two decades. Her experience includes leading campus planning, professional learning, and developing curriculum for districts that serve 10,000 to 38,000 students. She has opened multiple campuses with innovative learning environments, and as a result she understands the value of building a team, creating a unique culture, and forming teacher mindsets to inspire new pedagogy to achieve desired results in newly constructed facilities.

Edgar Moreno, AIA, LEED AP K-12 Architect, DLR Group
Edgar leads his project teams using a collaborative approach, working closely with his clients and project stakeholders. He always pursues the most responsive solutions, maximizing value to the communities he serves. Edgar brings a strong understanding of the local regulatory review process, which in many cases drives the project schedule, and is an active participant in the community engagement process.

Emily Oldham K-12 Architect, DLR Group
Emily education focused on Sustainable Design in architecture. She brings a commitment to healthy planning and design in K-12 Education to each project, having spent time examining indoor environmental quality at multiple public elementary school buildings in the DC metropolitan area. Emily enjoys creating places that anchor the community and facilitate connections among its users – whether it’s students, teachers, or the larger community. 

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO