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

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, AIA, ALEP, LEED BD + C, 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. Joe 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.

Saul Brass, School Board Vice President, Laraway CCSD 70C
Saul has lived in the district for 30 years and has served on the board of education for a total of 22 years, with his first term starting in 1989. Saul attended Joliet Central High School and Joliet Junior College where he completed the Caterpillar’s Manufacturing Engineering Apprentice Program, where he worked for 40 years, recently retiring. Saul takes great pride in the education and extra-curricular programs Laraway provides for its students. 

Association for Learning Environments (A4LE)

LearningSCAPES 2021

October 14-17
Hyatt Regency | Denver, CO