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Puzzle Pieces

A flexible student learning environment in RIpon, Wisconsin, allows student groups of different sizes to work together with supervision from the classrooms.

Educational environments need to support today’s evolving pedagogy, but they also need to align with the financial realities of the district. While many educational environments are changing, grade level configuration is an aspect that often remains fixed. To simply approach grade level configuration as a given is to potentially miss opportunities to realize significant positive impact.

Teaching and learning, school culture, and facilities operations can each be affected differently depending on the configuration of grade levels within a given school building. For example, combined middle and high school facilities can efficiently offer a variety of shared spaces and opportunities that middle school students don’t typically have access to. A combined facility could also mean a reduced total building footprint resulting in lower maintenance costs, energy savings, and equipment costs savings.

On the other hand, shifting to a new configuration of grade levels within each school can be a significant culture change and require adjustment for staff, students, parents, and the overall community. Combined schools aren’t always the best solution for a school district, for reasons both educational and economical. Asking the right questions about grade level configuration during the master planning process is an important piece in solving the facilities puzzle.