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Community input sought in plans for new Quaker Valley high school

| Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, 5:39 p.m.

Updated 5565 hours ago

Quaker Valley school officials are inviting the community to participate in one of several sessions to gather feedback on the necessary qualities of the future high school.

“Instead of starting with a building, they're starting with experiences: what do we want students to experience in a new high school facility,” district spokeswoman Angela Conigliaro said.

Conigliaro said the four sessions are open to everyone, not just parents in the district, but community members, students, tax payers and stakeholders. She said the goal is to involve as many people from the community as possible. At least 30 people had already signed up, she said.

“The district has hired BrainSpaces and MAYA Design, two companies, to help engage the entire community to start the planning process for a new high school facility.”

BrainSpaces is a nationally-recognized education planning firm, and MAYA Design is a design consultancy and research lab. MAYA Design will facilitate all four sessions in November, starting on Saturday. MAYA has capped each session at 24 people maximum to get the most out of each event.

After deliberating about this high school, Paul Gould, senior designer with MAYA Design, said the district decided to work with educational consultants BrainSpaces to think through learning experiences.

MAYA is working as a subcontractor to BrainSpaces and Gould said they are helping Quaker Valley with two things on this high school project: facilitating four community input sessions and operating as an outsider connected to post-high-school needs and demands.

“Our goal is to involve diverse participants in considering desired experiences, then use those desired experiences as a basis for designing a high school to support them.”

Gould said the design consultancy and research lab in Pittsburgh is decidedly not education consultants.

“We apply human-centered design methods to create great experiences. We do this for global corporations from Whirlpool to Wall Street, often involving complex interactions and interconnected systems. How we work can be as interesting as what we work on. We build workplaces that prompt high-performing teams to operate more effectively. And our work practices are so successful that we created another company (LUMA Institute) to teach other companies and organizations how to work like we do,” Gould said.

Gould said it's pretty typical with a school building program for everyone to focus first on the physical space and to get input from a broad constituency of stakeholders, which turns out to be “a big wishlist of stuff.”

“And it's pretty typical for a new school to get built, even with much of the wishlist included, and end up with a fresh building that is designed for the past and not the future.”

Gould said MAYA works with some of the biggest brands on earth, and those companies — like just about all organizations — are hungry for people who can work as innovators and collaborators.

“And they don't see a lot of well-equipped people emerging from the existing educational environment. So we're applying a bit of input and real-world pressure representing the demands of the future.”

MAYA also has a bit of a local connection too. Two senior designers, including Gould, are Quaker Valley residents and parents. Joe Ballay, one of MAYA's co-founders, is a graduate of Leetsdale High School.

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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