"This School is for Us?"; Creating Change in Underserved Communities

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

1 LU

On the first day of school in Laraway, IL, the students and families asked, "Is this school for us?" They found it unbelievable that their underserved communities would deserve a new school, one that contains all the innovative learning opportunities of more affluent and less diverse neighboring communities. Social equity in education has proven to be the true path out of poverty. (IDRA, Intercultural Development Research Association). The school board and the superintendent held this knowledge in their hearts and weathered the nine-year process of community engagement, empowered by disruptive optimism. We will share this transformational story step by step from community advocacy, passing a referendum, staff and student engagement, pre-occupancy prioritization, interactive educational design, construction of the PreK-8 learning environment, to post occupancy evaluation research results. We will demonstrate how creating grade level neighborhoods, educational planning overcame staff concerns by documented reduced bullying during the first year of occupying the new school. Thanks to improved educational outcomes, and increased student motivation, the new Laraway School became the 2020 John H. Shaw Award, issued by the Association for Learning Environments’ (A4LE) Midwest Great Lakes Region (MWGL).

Learning Objectives:

  1. Outline community engagement planning strategies and pre-bond services.
  2. Investigate how educational environments impact learning in post occupancy evaluations.
  3. Identify attributes of schools as community centers, providing education for families, 24/7.
  4. Participate in a discussion about lessons learned and how space can support anti-bullying strategies.

Robin Randall, AIA, ALEP, LEED BD + C, Principal and Director of PreK-12 Education, Legat Architects
Robin is leader of the national PreK-12 Education practice at Legat Architects. She connects personally to each project ensuring the design of every learning environment supports diversity and engages students in a culture of inquisitiveness. Robin's 35 years of experience includes designing and planning award winning educational centers from early learning, elementary, middle, high school including specialty learning environments. Her current research is on How Building Teach Kindness. 

Dr. Joe Salmeiri, PHD Education, Superintendent of Schools, Laraway CCSD 70C
Dr. Salmeiri is the superintendent of Laraway CCSD 70c where he serves the community working side by side with the school board and his administration team. He is an experienced leader with a demonstrated history of working in underserved communities. His operations background made him instrumental in optimizing student-centered learning environments on time and on budget. 

Rob Wroble, AIA, LEED AP, Legat Architects
Rob oversees projects that transform school districts. He works closely with school boards, administrators, staff, students, and community members to create high-performing spaces that encourage student success. Since joining Legat in 1991, Rob has led hundreds of educational projects ranging from building assessments and classroom renovations to new multi-building campuses. He also frequently helps districts envision their future and create long-term facility plans. Rob encourages all stakeholders to participate in the planning and design processes. He selects project teams based on client needs. An eighth grade teacher inspired Rob to pursue architecture; he has never regretted that decision. Rob holds Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO