John Eager Howard Community Design Review

On Tuesday night, more than 60 parents, students, neighbors, and neighborhood organizations (including: Whitelock Community Farm, New Lens, Beth Am, Mt. Royal CDC and Reservoir Hill House of Peace) came together for John Eager Howard’s design review. Our architects from Cho, Benn, Holback shared three potential schemes, and members of JEH’s Design Advisory & Action Team (a team of JEH staff, parents, neighbors and partners from: RHIC, Child First Authority, and Beth Am Synagogue) facilitated conversations throughout the room.

We invited participants to evaluate the three designs on the applicable values we’ve heard emphasized thus far throughout the community over the past 8 months:

  • School is an oasis in the community
  • School feels warm and welcoming to all visitors
  • School as a hub of the community
  • Spaces maximize opportunities for students’ experience and exposure
  • JEH is a certified Green School

BCPS’ design process will continue through 2015, and so the purpose of Tuesday night was to gain insight on community perspectives regarding the three layouts from a macro perspective. Because we are not yet evaluating the details of the building, the following are values we’ve heard but we were not yet able to analyze:

  • Everyone (students, parents, neighbors, partners) belongs
  • Transparency between the classroom and hallway
  • Space that reflects teachers
  • Family integrated throughout school
  • Spaces maximize parents’ opportunities for relationships, resources, supports
  • No two students are the same

We are still processing all the feedback we received on Tuesday night, but have already heard many interesting comments. For example: many neighbors are concerned about the safety of everyone using the building and surrounding green spaces, and about  how the school redesign can impact equitable development.

We are in the process of understanding the next official steps for the process, and the City’s timeline for selecting a layout. In the meantime, we are committed to showing the schemes to and hearing feedback from as many parents, neighbors, staff, and partners as time allows. BCPS asked us not to electronically distribute the schemes until after the MSA review, but we are happy to share physical copies with people, and will post them as soon as we are able.

It is important to note as well that this phase of the design process is focused on the areas impacted by academic programming. JEH is a Title I Most Distinguished School and now a 2013 Title I Reward School, and above all the space must support the academic mission of the school. In the coming months we will be working on a comprehensive needs assessment that leads to defining and identifying partners for the 3,000 sq ft of community space. Stay tuned as this next phase takes shape; we will be reaching out to the school-community in the coming weeks for input on this assessment.

If you have feedback, or would like to see the schemes, please contact Erin Bowman, ebowman@reservoirhill.net.

If you are interested in hosting a “review party”, please fill out this form: http://bit.ly/1jCrWWj.