Facility Planning: New Directions

K-12 districts now serve adults as well as children.

Years ago, a public school district's role was confined to children from kindergarten through 12th grade. Today, the programs offered by school districts have expanded significantly: community education, early childhood, senior centers, special-education programs, early-childhood education, social services, innovative partnerships with public and private entities, and more.

A rise in the demand for adult basic education is affecting some school districts. Independent School District 279, Osseo Area Schools (Minn.), recently completed the first phase of a new Family Services Center. Phase I provides classrooms and support facilities for the district's adult programs. Phase II is scheduled to begin construction this year and will provide space for family support services. The facility provides programs aimed at assisting immigrant adults, as well as citizens who are under-educated and disadvantaged.

Designing and constructing a freestanding building for adult education is unusual. Districts with decreasing enrollments can use surplus classrooms or buildings for adult education, but not Osseo Area Schools. Many families have moved into this suburban Minneapolis district in an effort to leave behind the poverty of the inner city. Consequently, the school facilities in those areas of the district have no room for adult education classes. Other parts of the district are expanding with higher-income families, and the schools in those areas also are too full to accommodate adult-education programs.

The Family Services Center is a partnership of the district, Northwest Family Services Collaborative and Community Emergency Assistance Program. It provides one-stop services for adult education; youth diversion and family counseling; dental services for low-income families; housing, energy assistance and financial counseling; food and clothing, family loans and transportation; public health and social services; employment and job training; housing and health services for immigrants and refugees; and more.

The influx of immigrants and refugees has greatly increased the need for such services. The facility addresses several planning and design issues:

  • Designed for alternative use.

  • Easy access to public transportation.

  • Two equally prominent entry facades.

  • Space allocation: 20 percent of the building serves adult-education programs; 54 percent serves family support services; and 26 percent contains shared and common space.

  • Financing: 34 percent was the responsibility of the school district; 16 percent state funding; 7 percent nonprofit agencies; 43 percent capital gifts and grants.

  • Diverse spaces.

  • One-stop services.

Rydeen, FAIA, is an architect/facility planning specialist and former president of Armstrong, Torseth, Skold & Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R), Minneapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].

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