Will pandemic influence future school designs, layouts? AISD officials say yes

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AUSTIN (KXAN) —The Austin Independent School District 2017 Bond was designed to modernize or construct new campus facilities, some of which will be replacement schools.

Menchaca Elementary, which was completed in January 2020, was one of the many schools which was part of the 2017 bond.

“This campus was very intentionally designed around outdoor learning environments and collaboration,” said Menchaca Elementary principal Eliza Loyola.

The new school offers rooms that open up for more space, outdoor working areas and more ways to keep everyone connected.

“It has allowed us to be flexible with our space,” Loyola said. “It allowed us to create social distancing.”

Loyola’s top priority is the safety of her teachers and students and the new design, although not initially intended to keep kids and teachers socially distanced, has made a transition to a COVID-19 safe environment much easier.

“Really that design was for intensive student peer-to-peer work,” Loyola said. “So making that shift to COVID safety practices actually happened very easily.”

The pandemic has left districts across the country rethinking how students can return to the classroom, but also stay safe.

The pandemic has also influenced what future schools might look like in AISD.

“As the pandemic has continued over the last year we have taken things from that and incorporated those into our future designs and specifications,” said Matias Segura, AISD operations officer. “One of the things we always talk about is the building should be a learning tool. Every space in the building should be a learning opportunity.”

That’s already happening at Menchaca, Loyola says, as the classroom upgrades have helped significantly.

“They (students) love that time together because they are in community with each other which they didn’t have before.”

Menchaca Elementary won a Summit Architectural Award from A4LE Southern Region. The award recognizes a distinctive project that demonstrates design excellence and positively impacts teaching and learning in the community.

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