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What I’ve learned from Richland’s Expansion…

As the Director of Community Life at Richland Academy, I was elated to be part of initial conversations regarding an expansion to the school. That was nearly three years ago now.  We immersed ourselves in researching the elements essential for a 21st century learning facility, and strove to create a Reggio-inspired space that Richland could grow into.  We had a substantial wish list!Over the next few years, dreams began to become reality with architectural renderings and aspirational designs, still honouring the ideals of a Reggio-inspired school while working with the practicalities of our existing property. There were planning meetings with the Town, planning meetings with the construction company, and planning meetings with Richland’s own community. There were trips to see flooring and tiles.  There were discussions about the surface of the stairs and the finish on the doors.  I have unrolled the architectural drawings more times than I can recall, and yet still it was all never quite real.  Until now.It has been 6 months since we first broke ground to construct the two-storey, 20,000 square foot expansion onto our school; and I suspect no one marvels more than I do at the almost daily changes to Richland.  It’s difficult to remember what the space looked like before the concrete footings were poured; and then before the steel framework; and then before the window frames; and then, and then, and then…it continues to evolve and those wonderful ideas of a school filled with light and open spaces for learning are unfolding in front of us.Despite this unbearable winter, the construction crew has kept to the schedule and soon the bricks will be laid and the floors completed.  The crew will then focus on the interior of the building, and it won’t be so easy to see the daily changes.  I can tell you, what awaits us inside will be incredible. The café will have a built in gas fireplace for gathering around; the main floor classrooms will have their own doors opening onto the green space; the Learning Commons will house books and technology in one space for research and collaboration; and light will flood the building from all angles.  I can’t wait!In the months ahead, there will be packing and moving and thoughtful consideration about our environment.  We are going to transform every part of Richland – the existing and the newly constructed – to be a space that reflects the incredible learning taking place.
Thus far, this is what I have learned from Richland’s expansion:

  • Remember why you’re doing it – create a space that inspires learning.
  • Bureaucracy is a process.  Persevere.
  • You can use ceiling tiles to determine the measurements of a room.
  • Just because floors can be purple, doesn’t mean they should.
  • Humans can make awesome things when they work together.

I feel extremely fortunate to be able to contribute to this space, and to know that for years to come young people will grow and thrive within it.  I encourage you to watch our journey as it unfolds over the coming months, and to celebrate with us in September when we inhabit this extraordinary new space.

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