CHA Architecture representative Kathy Cogan gave a presentation virtually Monday for Augusta residents about planning for the city school district’s future. Screenshot via Zoom

AUGUSTA — Last week, the city school district hosted a pair of virtual meetings for discussion of its future plans.

On Monday night, a follow-up presentation allowed participants to pinpoint what they considered to be important in the design of the buildings and the district itself.

As Augusta Public Schools prepare for renovation or new construction of Hussey Elementary School, officials have begun a visioning process to figure out what the future of education will look like in the city. Hussey has been on the state Department of Education’s list to receive building funds for the last 10 years, and school officials think its turn will be coming soon.

Monday night’s meeting, like the two last week, was led by Kathy Cogan of CHA Architecture.

Cogan emphasized the importance of community feedback in the planning process. Last week, she gave the audience examples of school buildings for the future, which included active classrooms and ones with different zones for various activities, outdoor learning spaces and resource rooms.

On Monday, Cogan gave examples of specific schools that incorporated these ideas, and polled the audience about their thoughts. She asked the audience what they liked in the designs. The consensus was similar, they liked: outside lighting, courtyards, pods for a sense of community and the ability to have a shared space.

“Not only how to design the building, but how you can use the buildings,” Cogan said. “You have these words to think about … and we can make a report to use with the architects, Department of Education, the school. It’s really important and going to help you be focused moving forward as you look back on your priorities.”

Buildings for the future, she said, emphasize STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — which is reflected in the design. For an example, Cogan said one school, located in Champaign, Illinois, has a laboratory located in the middle of the building to encourage collaboration and community.

Though open-concept designs, light furniture that’s easy to move around, portable whiteboards, she said, collaborative learning can be encouraged. A parent in the meeting asked why STEM-based learning is important.

“It’s about integrating those designs together,” Cogan said. “Teaching math, but also teaching science at the same time, and the idea there is a problem-solving that happens at as a part of project-based learning. And what we see as architects is the need to provide the spaces for that type of learning and collaboration we are seeing in STEM classes.”

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