, 2014

Community discusses vision
for Lancaster schools

by Shannon Rice

LANCASTER—Some 70 people gathered September 26 to discuss the vision for Lancaster County Public Schools during a community meeting at Lancaster High School.

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Tracy Richter of DeJong-Richter LLC, an educational facilities planning firm, opened the meeting with a presentation showing what the 21st century learning environment looks like, how the school division is currently meeting the needs of its students and how it can anticipate what future needs will be. Richter emphasized a division’s vision has to carry over a long period of time.

“The front end of this process is about six months worth of work. The impact is 75 years worth of facilities,” said Richter.

Richter’s presentation included descriptions of various school facility models, the advancement of technology in the classroom, and demographic trends on local and national levels.

He said any facility plan has to address learners first and also respond to work force needs. The needs of the learner and the workforce will help determine what type of facilities are needed, he said.

Richter also noted the population in Lancaster is steadily aging and decreasing in size.

“Enrollment is projected to decrease by 165 students between 2013 and 2022,” said Richter.

DeJong-Richter and RRMM Architects began touring Lancaster schools in June to assess the facilities’ capabilities and needs, said Richter. He noted the primary school was styled in an old industrial model which makes collaboration difficult. Despite the age and design of the building, Richter said the initial goal should not be to tear down buildings but instead to make them easier to maintain.

“We’re not here tonight to design or decide on a new school building,” said superintendent Dr. Daniel Lukich. “We’re very, very, very far from doing anything like that, if at all.”

Following Richter’s presentation, meeting attendees, a majority of which were school employees, completed a questionnaire about grade configuration, the number of school buildings Lancaster should have, class sizes and extracurricular activities.

The questionnaire also asked participants what the appropriate course of action should be for the county’s school buildings as they stand currently.

After completing questionnaires, meeting participants took part in roundtable discussions to reach a consensus on each questionnaire item. The consensus results for each table were then recorded on larger charts as part of the DeJong Richter and RRMM Architects data collection.

The larger charts showed most of the participants preferred a two-school model with smaller class sizes. Most participants felt rebuilding or demolishing would be the best course of action for the primary school.

Richter said final recommendations from DeJong-Richter and RRMM Architects should be ready for the school board around February or March.

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