Our Views: A new model for schools

While it will occupy the same site, the new Lee High School will be a different place than its predecessor of many years in south Baton Rouge.

And that’s good news because the School Board and school leaders are aiming to build a school that will provide a different learning experience for students who are growing up in a digital world.

The contemporary design of the new campus was unveiled by Superintendent Bernard Taylor. The school will be opening in 2015.

Lee students now occupy the site of the former Valley Park Alternative School.

Three buildings on the site will house academies for three magnet programs, focused on digital arts, science and mathematics and biomedicine. The three were chosen in consultation with business leaders because of their relevance to Baton Rouge’s job markets

Inside are buildings reminiscent of a software company or big-city creative enterprise, with moveable walls and open spaces intended to provide a collaborative atmosphere for classes. It is a remarkably different look than the traditional halls and classrooms of yore.

On its website, ebrschools.org, the system will post renderings and a virtual tour of the proposed facility.

It is probably as innovative an approach as in any school district in the country. Taylor noted that it grew out of questioning how education should be delivered in the digital age.

As the system builds or rebuilds schools in the future, a similar re-imagining process will be needed, Taylor said. “We have to have the same conversation about what a 21st-century elementary school looks like,” he said. “We have to have the same conversation about what a 21st-century middle school looks like.”

How different is the design? “The only things that will be the same are students and teachers,” architect David Hebert quipped.

However, we’d add that students and teachers are still the essential elements in the buildings, however advanced the latter may be. We are impressed with the design, and we are confident that a new approach to learning will be reflected in the activities of students and teachers within it.