HOLLOW PLANNING – NO PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT
When is the first public meeting regarding planning and designing the green school?
No public involvement has been or will be implemented during the Planning phase of the green school grant.
The first School Building Authority grant deadline is a mere two weeks away.
SBA Director Mark Manchin and the architects’ idea of a green school seems to be that of a relatively high tech energy efficient machine. Period. Greenery, living things, ecology, solariums, green houses, gardens, landscaping, green roofs, living roofs, green walks, wildlife, botanical study, active growing, and related green activities, green policies, green food and food systems, healthful activities, green community activities, myriad green childrens’ activities – not so much at all.
“Thinking outside the box” may be a silly buzz-phrase and cliched notion but Manchin and the architects show precious little sign of even knowing what the box may be, what the boxes are, let alone how to think outside them. Amazingly one of the lead architects even stated as much at the green school “kickoff” (public not invited) as if that were no problem.
Everyone seriously involved needs to think outside the purpose of a school – break that rule especially – because new good ideas will come from that exercise to help expand our understanding of what a school is, could be, and should be. Any school. Let alone a green school. To help improve the current impoverished reality of what learning is, could be, should be. A substantial percentage of the SBA grant money should be set aside upfront for creating a green school and green school grounds and activities beyond anything currently envisioned or expressed by Manchin, the architects, and the BOE.
Manchin and the architects’ approach (and needless to say that of the BOE) seems to be that of creating a high tech toy with a few constructive and useful mechanical features, a sort of narrow almost inanimate wannabe-green school.
Susan makes a crucial point that there needs to be far more focus on the landscaping, on the land, on the flora and fauna, the living arena, and the human activities therein. Only in this way can the technology, green or otherwise, be modeled and built to suit.
Those involved need to think seriously, with real curiosity and innovation, about a school as far more than a technical network of energy efficient pipes and playgrounds, parking lots and classrooms if we are to be left with more than a mere high tech engineer’s toy of limited scope, use, life, learning. The schoolchildren early this coming school year need to be involved as part of their regular school activity in designing and planning the green school and what all can and will go on there.
Dr. Manchin laid out a grand goal, but offered no real vision or reality for getting there. And just so have the architects and the BOE fallen grievously short so far.
It’s not even clear that they realize how much they have handicapped themselves by preferring the screaming and polluted intersection site on the Mileground and what extraordinary measures will need to be made in the attempt to overcome that woeful – very ungreen – siting decision.
An incredible tiered green school could be built on the southeast facing Woodburn sidehill, with its quiet great view, flat above and flat below, and adjacent room to expand on ridgetop or terraces. It could be one of the country’s great structures and facilities still.
Failing that tremendous possibility, the BOE and related others will need to work very hard to keep from looking very stupid and terribly inept in trying to overcome the hazards and penalties of building a school for small children at a major commuter intersection on the commercial strip of the Mileground.