A cross-section of our school and local communities—representing staff, students, parents, administrators, district residents and local legislators—participated in roundtable conversations focusing on planning a capital improvement project and the future of facilities, educational environments and academic programming at Cairo-Durham schools.
In addition to addressing aging facilities and infrastructure, the District must decide what facilities and programs are viable for the future, and how to ensure that any projects are consistent with future plans both structurally and educationally. Therefore, community members were asked to discuss the following questions:
- The college and work environment will look very different for our Kindergarten class when they graduate in 2030. What skills and characteristics do our students need to have in order to be successful in the 21st century workplace?
- Our academic and program offerings need to be relevant and aligned to the work environment so that our students graduate with college and career readiness. What programmatic changes do we need to make (e.g., modeled after working environment, internships)? What academic or program offerings would position our district as a premier school program and encourage families to move their children to Cairo-Durham CSD (as opposed to other area districts)?
- Our facilities and learning spaces need to change in order to best support this learning. What infrastructure or facility changes does the district need to consider to better meet student needs into the future?
- The school district wants to continue to position our schools as the center of our community. How can we ensure that our facilities best support the needs of our community, during and after school hours?
The mind maps and discussion summaries from each table are outline below.
Update infrastructure. Both students and teachers should be current, comfortable and adaptable when it comes to technology. More hands-on learning. STEM opportunities like computer coding/programming. Our future graduates need to be problem solvers with effective face-to-face communication skills. Student learning could be skills-based or progress-based. Learning spaces should be flexible and able to me used for different things (e.g., different sized/shaped tables, transitional furniture). More comfortable seating. Maybe a student lounge area. Students will need skills for self-motivation, self-discipline, self-regulation and self-advocacy. They will need to be flexible and adaptable. Health and wellness center. Students may benefit from more internship and mentoring opportunities.
Communication skills are important, including written, oral, and interpersonal/face-to-face communication, as well as public speaking experience. They will need good social skills (or “people skills”) and be able to effectively work in teams and collaborative environments. Teamwork will require them to also have leadership and conflict resolution skills. Students should get experience working in different situations and with people from diverse backgrounds. They need to be able to overcome challenges with a “growth mindset,” enabling them to learn from failures. Academic programs related to agriculture, typing/keyboarding, using computer programs, and coding or writing computer programming. College-bound students may benefit from SAT prep courses. Families may be more inclined to move their children into our school district if there were more enrichment programs in elementary school and more variety in elective offerings at the high school level (e.g., Genealogy, Coding, Industrial Arts, Film and Editing). Athletic facility upgrades such as turf field or pool. Community spaces for things like adult education classes, meeting spaces and/or a media center and fitness center open for community use.
Our future graduates need to be problem solvers, with strong critical thinking skills and the ability to fact check/evaluate sources of information to ensure accuracy. They should have ownership over their learning. Well-rounded academic programs that educate the whole child may be appealing to families looking to move to the area. In addition to math, science, language arts, social studies, technology, etc., it was mentioned that a well-rounded education might include (among other things):
- Multicultural clubs or diversity clubs to increase exposure to other cultures, religions, etc. impacting our world (and available to our world)
- Self-care and mindfulness practices to promote mental health and wellness (e.g., yoga, meditation)
- More enrichment programs in elementary school
Other programming that could benefit our students and community includes: nutrition, Nature’s Classroom, driver’s education, continuing/adult education, “life courses,” and mentoring programs likes Big Brother/Big Sister. A fitness center for the school and community. Upgraded and better tasting drinking water. Use Durham! Students may benefit from more internship and mentoring opportunities where they can experience multiple career paths/fields. We should consider canvassing our faculty, staff and community members to see what careers/knowledge/interests/hobbies are represented, and then find out where gaps exist in the workforce (e.g., growing need for certified building inspectors). We could then enhance our relationships with local colleges, businesses, career fields, etc. to fill the gaps (e.g., businesses, knowledge, training).
Students need to be problem solvers and fact checkers, constantly evaluating sources of information. They should know how to research information in multiple ways and not just use Google for everything. Curricula could expand to include: career experience/exposure, internships, skills-based programs, programs based on student interests and strengths, life skills (e.g., work/life balance, coping skills, personal relationships, interpersonal/intrapersonal communication, time management).
Students should have more exposure to career fields, starting at a younger age, so they know what careers exist and can make informed decisions about college/career paths. This includes career opportunities within larger career fields (e.g., architects need drafts people, engineers need project managers or software developers). Embrace the realization that college is not for everybody, and that all paths are celebrated with pride.
Update the Media Center and model it after college libraries (perhaps include makerspaces as well). Professional meeting spaces. Some sort of outdoor space at the middle/high school. Make the schools feel like a second home where students can feel comfortable and safe, and have places to go during “down time” (such as before sports games). Have spaces for indoor recess at CDE (e.g., quiet activities, group activities such as Wii, drama, film, child interests).
Both students and teachers should be current, comfortable and adaptable when it comes to technology. They should be “technologically aware,” or tech savvy, and computer literate. This includes typing/keyboarding, using computer programs, and coding or writing computer programming. Students should have authentic learning experiences may excel at “learning through doing.”
We need to sustain and enhance our course offerings that challenge high school students (e.g., college credit-bearing courses, Advanced Placement, Honors, Distance Learning). Dual or concurrent enrollment programs, which allow students to complete coursework in college degree programs while they are still in high school.
It is important to fulfill the needs of all students, whether the focus is on trades or college track. For students who do not wish to attend college, there should be more programs aimed at trying different career paths or joining the workforce. Continued and enhanced partnerships with career and technical education programs would provide additional alternatives.
Future students may have a need to be bilingual and speak more than one language. Increased access to foreign languages could give Cairo-Durham’s academic programming an edge over other schools, as well as an advantage to our students who are growing up in a world where bilingualism is becoming more important. It may be beneficial for students to have global knowledge so they can have empathy and cultural sensitivity in an increasingly diverse world.
Educational spaces should be flexible. Flexible classrooms might include different sized/shaped tables and open, flexible spaces in which desks, tables, chairs, etc. could be interchangeable, transitional or mobile. Make schools look more like work environments and less “institutional.” Have areas to accommodate large group instruction (LGI). Centralize things like main offices, student services, and the nurse’s office.
Enhance safety and security (e.g., more security features at building entrances, parking near athletic facilities, better outdoor lighting, modified pick/up drop off at MS/HS). Consider offering community access to mental health services, parenting classes, adult education classes, driver’s education, etc. Other facilities considerations include: health and fitness center, pool facility, outdated lockers, upgrades to phones/intercoms, upgrades to electrical and network infrastructures, art and music spaces (e.g., storage, lighting, stage updates), athletic fields (e.g., football needs to be on MS/HS campus), on-site daycare for staff, and community access to the Media Center.
Below are additional notes that were recorded during the table reporting, but may not have been drawn on the mind maps:
- Football field on campus (more secure)
- Locker room overhauls
- Additional fields for little league on campus
- Successful sports teams draw students
- YMCA collaborations
- Walking trails
- Project adventure facilities
- Fitness trail
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a buzzword we hear a lot, so there should be more focus on STEM in our academic programming. We need to consider adding relevant academic programming for “jobs of the future.” Examples mentioned include:
- Alternative energy programs
- Agricultural/horticultural programs
- Coding/programming/writing computer software
- Cyber security
- FFA/Agricultural science
- Health care programs
Other programmatic considerations to strengthen our curricula and align it with “college and career readiness” could include:
- Financial responsibility/literacy (e.g., good credit/saving practices)
- Information/media literacy
- Interpersonal communication
- Writing (e.g., business letters, cursive writing)
To enhance computer literacy, there needs to be continued and increased equal access to technology resources such as Chromebooks and/or iPads. Children may benefit from using more technology at a younger age.
Educational spaces should be flexible and allow for opportunities to engage in project-based, workshop-based, traditional, differentiated and quiet learning.
Other academic programming that could benefit our students revolves around “life skills” and includes: self-defense, driver’s education, drug counseling/substance abuse, and making healthy choices. Programming such as this could possibly be mandatory for all students.
In the workforce, our students will need important values such as responsibility, strong work ethic, good life choices (e.g., drug-free), reliability and punctuality. They should also have respect, for themselves, others and the world. Civic awareness/participation will help them be positive contributing members in their communities.
Families may also appreciate a school that has a strictly enforced dress code. This does not necessarily mean traditional uniforms, but some sort of standard dress guidelines so that the focus remains on learning and not what other students are wearing.
Vegetable gardens, greenhouse, compost (which could also be tied to agricultural related programs). Sustainable power/energy upgrades. High tech science labs.
Meeting spaces or conference rooms for community and civic groups. Adult education programs. Senior center. Public spaces on campus. Gym/fitness center open to the public. Community Schools idea (e.g., have medical, dental, mental health providers on-site).
The school entrances must look nice and be inviting. Restructure buildings to make them more accessible. Host more opportunities to bring the public into the schools, such as basketball nights or movie nights.
Utilization of Durham Elementary, perhaps as a library/media center (due to lack of public library in Durham) or for Questar-type learning programs.