NORTH BAY -- Open floorplan, open source, open classroom -- the way K--12 schools are upgraded and new ones built are starting to have more in common with Silicon Valley, and that's by design.
[caption id="attachment_91950" align="alignright" width="300"] The planned $7.5 million modernization of Healdsburg Junior High School will include renovation of three buildings adding seven "learning suites," including two for teaching science. The project is set to start construction in June and be completed completely in June. (credit: Quattrocchi Kwok Architects)[/caption]
Two recent examples of the state and national push for cutting-edge learning environments are the Larkspur-Corte Madera and Healdsburg Unified school districts. New elementary schools in southern Marin County and significant upgrades in the northern Sonoma County area illustrate the four main principles for such modern campuses -- "differentiated learning, multiple modalities, multidisciplinary teaching and real-world skills development" -- put forth by draft federal "21st century schools" specifications.
"Not every kid learns at the same rate and in the same way," said Mark Quattrocchi, a principal architect of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects.
The Santa Rosa-based firm has been working with both districts and a number of others in Northern California eager to tap state and local bond money for modernization and new construction and meet evolving state education goals.
Rather than the typical 1,000-square-foot classroom that has one door and aligns students toward a teacher for all instruction, the new "learning suites" focus on collaboration between teachers and students. Adjoining rooms have acoustically insulated glass walls that can be folded or slid back to allow teachers and students in adjoining rooms to work together. Conference tables and easily movable furniture replace individual desks. Flat panel TVs and floor-to-ceiling whiteboards are for presentations and brainstorming sessions. The rooms also open to the outside, so students can work on some assignments outside under teacher supervision.
This is based on input from educators and school administrators and from tours of Bay Area companies the architects led for faculty and staff.
[caption id="attachment_91952" align="alignright" width="300"] San Clemente School] Former San Clemente school in southern Marin County is being remade with "learning suites" and a cafe-style student union. (credit: Quattrocchi Kwok Architects)[/caption]
"The more they talked about what they wanted, the more we thought of the high-tech world," Mr. Quattrocchi said.
From such a tour to Google's campus on the Peninsula, Larkspur-Corte Madera officials and instructors zeroed in on the company's cafe approach to a cafeteria as a model for a reworked San Clemente Elementary, called The Cove. The cost of the project is estimated to be $15 million and it is set to welcome 350 students this fall.
Rather than a traditional isolated elementary school multipurpose building and cafeteria, Cove's cafe is the main entrance, with the library, offices and some classrooms directly off it. In addition to being a place for students to eat, the center will have flexible seating for small groups and individual work as well as a platform for small- and large-group presentations from a platform served by wireless video projection. Like the "learning suites," the room also has large sliding glass doors that open to the campus common area.
[caption id="attachment_91951" align="alignleft" width="300"] "It's like a Starbucks without the coffee," said Mark Quattrocchi, principal of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, designer of the $16.5 million new Cupertino High School student union.[/caption]