Wake Ed

Wake County defends adding collaborative learning areas

The Wake County school board approved Tuesday adding collaborative learning spaces to the designs for the new Bryan Road Elementary School in Garner and the renovation of Brooks Elementary School in Raleigh that could cost $887,000.

The board approved the Option B design for Bryan Road Elementary, which would add 3,600 square feet of commons space at a cost of $615,000. It was chosen over Option A because that design would reduce the school’s capacity. It was chosen over Option C because that design has the commons areas on the ends instead of in the middle of the classroom wings in Option B.

For instance, the change will create large areas that Bryan Road students can meet in to work in small groups, large groups or on their own with furniture that can be easily moved around to meet the needs at the time. Glass walls would be used in the classrooms so that teachers could observe what’s happening in the commons areas.

The board also approved a change to the design for Brooks Elementary by adding 1,450 square feet of commons space at a cost of $272,000.

The votes came after staff gave a presentation about how incorporating collaborative learning spaces at schools improves student learning. They said that creating flexible learning areas where furniture can be moved around and walls can be erected or taken down better supports different learning styles. Advocates say it replicates the way the modern business office is set up.

Several school board members spoke in favor of incorporating collaborative learning spaces. Board vice chair Tom Benton also challenged the criticism raised by Terry Stoops, director of education research studies for the John Locke Foundation, who said Wake was focusing too much on the “cool factor.”

“This is not a ‘cool factor,’” Benton said. “This is necessary to educate our kids in the way that our workforce is demanding us to be educated now so anybody that thinks we’re doing this to just to create cool spaces really needs to do some research and see what’s happening nationally and internationally in the construction of schools. It’s the expected type of buildings that you build now.”

School board member Monika Johnson-Hostler said critics of flexible learning spaces should look at the numerous business that have moved away from walled office spaces. She said these flexible spaces helps students improve the “soft skills” that are needed nowadays.