What would it look like if a design team joined forces with a school district, county government and countless educators, parents, students and community members to build a roadmap to equitable education? Baltimore’s Multi‐Year Improvement Plan for All Schools (MYIPAS) is a good place to start.
Commissioned under the partnership of Baltimore County Public Schools and the Baltimore County Government, MYIPAS is a 15-year strategic plan that provides a roadmap for equitably prioritizing and implementing public school facility projects countywide, resulting in a quality school environment for every child, regardless of where they live.
Our CannonDesign, FOS of CannonDesign and Blue Cottage of CannonDesign teams led a two-year study that delivered a roadmap for current and future school construction projects and enhancements, designed to adapt as communities change and investments are sustained or grown.
We created a framework for equitably providing safe and inviting schools that inspire and embrace an increasingly diverse student population.
As with most public schools across the country, the buildings of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) were built in the mid‐20th century in response to the baby boom. They had an expected, serviceable life of 50‐60 years, as they were designed to support an outdated instructional model that has since evolved. At the launch of our study in 2020, the district was facing the challenges of rapid a rapid enrollment spike due to dramatic residential growth, a lack of sufficient specialized academic facilities and inadequate infrastructure to support expanding needs for a diverse student population.
In 20 years, BCPS should be at a point where equity and diversity are normal. I would like to see that each student, no matter which school [they attend], has the same opportunities to succeed.Randallstown High School Senior
Baltimore County Government and Baltimore County Public Schools envisioned a new approach to planning and implementing facility projects that would improve opportunities and outcomes for all BCPS students, no matter where they live or which school they attend.
The MYIPAS launched in early 2020 as BCPS’ first combined facility assessment and facility master planning initiative to review all buildings comprehensively in terms of three strategic pillars of assessment, while engaging the community for guidance and input under a transparent, structured, data‐driven planning process. The three pillars of the plan are facility condition, capacity utilization and education adequacy and equity.
The MYIPAS was informed by survey responses from more than 25,000 students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members representing all of BCPS’ 170 school communities.
Community engagement was central to the development plan. With the project launching shortly before the pandemic, we worked closely with BCPS to rethink the means, methods and processes necessary to deliver on the project’s intent. We leveraged video-conferencing, virtual breakout rooms, cloud-based documents and live polling to successfully facilitate critical interactive educational visioning workshops, which built early momentum and stakeholder enthusiasm.
This strategy included leading four, open-invitation community forums to review proposed options and provide feedback and conducting two community surveys to inform strategic priorities and weigh in on decision criteria.
In partnership with FOS of CannonDesign, our team's comprehensive, data-driven strategy defined operational reforms and capital projects in close partnership with its diverse communities. Beyond advancing educational outcomes for students and optimizing facility use, the MYIPAS was developed to lift statutory Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) restrictions on residential growth triggered by localized capacity overutilization.
The resulting data collection and analysis are targeted to produce a physical facility condition index, an educational equity index and a combined index with weighting applied to each subcategory. FOS also developed an innovative, scalable approach that dialed in the depth of assessment to suit each school age and mission priority and leveraged in-house district resources to self-perform aspects of the project, saving BCPS over $1 million in fees.
Our Blue Cottage of CannonDesign team led analytics planning for in-depth market assessment as well as capacity and utilization modeling across all170 campuses.
By applying an equitable prioritization rationale, the project successfully achieved the following outcomes:
- The full plan fits within the available budget
- All schools are improved within 15 years
- All previously approved projects are included in the plan
- Additions and redistricting bring capacity utilization to 100% by 2026
- Educational strategy projects expand equity and opportunity countywide
- Special education and alternative education program enhancements are prioritized
In the future, every Baltimore County student and teacher should be in a building that’s healthy, efficient and comfortable. Let’s put the effort and funding behind exceptional facilities now so that in 20 years we can look back and celebrate our accomplishment with gratitude to our school leaders in 2021.Parent, Ridgely Middle School