The School as a Neighborhood Anchor

While flipping through the Mozilla blogosphere this evening, I came across an interesting post from David Ascher, the new leader of Mozilla’s messaging effort, which was only tangentially about messaging. He had attended an event where people were discussing how to sesmically retrofit aging Vancouver city schools, and pondered the differences between building a consensus on school construction policy and building a consensus on the “future of email.” One point he made that struck me was this:

… it was hard to find people who didn’t appreciate the elegance of an old idea: that our schools shouldn’t be thought of (and budgeted for) as single purpose “teaching boxes”, but instead as multi-purpose community hubs, leveraging precious real estate to provide a variety of civic services (libraries, gyms, meeting spaces, cafeterias, playing fields), with an appropriate funding model.

He goes on to list a few positive effects of viewing schools in this manner, all of which had me nodding my head in agreement. Building schools with the intent of using them as “neighborhood anchors” won’t solve all the ills of urban schools (I remember a particularly heartbreaking example of a glittering new high school in Washington, DC that was left to rot), but it’s a good idea, especially in communities where there is little investment, public or otherwise.

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