Avoiding The 'Mega' High School Syndrome

Some suburban school districts are dividing new high schools into smaller wings to create a tighter sense of community.

"Sometimes, a suburban high school has a certain resemblance to the Mall of America.

Wide halls are packed with people. Big, exposed atriums are filled with noise. Winding staircases and walkways help people move efficiently.

Among the only noticeable differences (aside from the shopping, of course) are the absence of multi-deck parking ramps and hordes of tourists."

Yet some districts are trying to counter that effect. In Farmington, a suburban city about 30 miles outside of Minneapolis, the new high school "is designed around four 500-student wings, in which students could stay together for much of their high school years, helping teachers know them better and helping students feel more at home."

" 'It's like four mini high schools,' said Troy Miller of DLR Group, the architecture firm that designed the school."

" 'What makes small schools appealing and successful is that you walk in the door and the teachers immediately know you 'cause they see you on the street, they know your parents. ... You go to a big school, and that whole social fabric is now disconnected. The goal of the 'school within a school' is to kind of reaffirm and reweave that fabric a little bit so that there's a safety net.' "

Full Story: Growing districts try to build big with small feel

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