Recently, the District 200 Board of Education accepted the facilities master plan created by the Imagine OPRF Team. The next steps are for the board to determine what portions of the plan to implement and how to fund them.
This comes at the same time that our communities are engaged in important discussions about equity at OPRF. Some have argued that the school should delay investment in facilities while it focuses on equity. That position doesn’t really make sense, for two reasons.
First, equity work should not be separate from other work the school does. Taking equity seriously means making it central to all of that work: teaching, counseling, planning, and investing in facilities. Second, equity was imbedded in Imagine OPRF’s facilities planning every step of the way.
Facilities improvement and equity initiatives are not competing; they are intertwined and interdependent. Claims that pit equity and facilities against each other are based on the false premise that you can only do one or the other in some zero sum game. The truth is that D200 needs to do both together to benefit all students.
The pursuit of equity happens in a place, and facilities can create obstacles or opportunities for that pursuit. At its core, the master plan is an effort to remove those obstacles and to maximize those opportunities.
Equity is about providing each student what they need to be successful. The master plan creates facilities with the flexibility to support that goal.
The plan improves academic spaces for all students and provides flexibility for instruction that meets diverse learning needs of individual students.
The plan includes facilities that support the whole student, including their physical education, social emotional growth, and opportunities for career and technical education.
The plan creates spaces for groups of students who feel marginalized to help all students feel welcome in their school.
The plan makes the entire building accessible and it helps mitigate unequal access to resources at home.
And the plan creates appropriate spaces for a full range of extracurricular activities.
Far from being unnecessary fluff that’s unrelated to equity, extracurriculars are key anchors for students at OPRF. For students who feel unwelcome, marginalized, or disconnected from their school, extracurricular activities — arts, social, athletics, academic, or service — provide a niche, a sense of belonging, a connection to the school and the people in it. For some students, participation in these “extras” is the only thing that brings them through the front doors each day. That’s why the master plan designs flexible curricular spaces that support a full range of extracurricular activities. It’s another way improved facilities support equity.
Marginal facilities affect all students, but they have a disproportionate effect on marginalized students. All students will benefit from facilities improvements, but marginalized students have the most to gain.
Lynn Kamenitsa was a co-chair of Imagine OPRF.