SD2, community hear final report from planning firm Fielding Nair

2012-04-24T21:00:00Z 2012-04-25T12:00:11Z SD2, community hear final report from planning firm Fielding NairBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

School District 2 has been given a vision for its facilities and now its up to SD2 leaders and the community to take it to the next step.

That was the message from Prakash Nair of Fielding Nair, a Florida-based design firm specializing in "creative learning communities."

Nair presented his final report to community members and SD2 officials in a special Tuesday night meeting.

"The problems you see in your school district is actually typical of what you see in the rest of the country," Nair said by Skype from the Billings Lincoln Center.

Specifically those problems are aging buildings and limited funds to repair or replace them. Many of the questions directed to Nair revolved around how to make the changes he was suggesting with a limited budget.

An initial draft of the report was given to the district in November. The final version will be delivered this week.

The report found that the community -- as it was reflected in the surveys and group discussions conducted by Fielding Nair -- wanted SD2 schools to give students real-world experience.

It also showed that parents want Billings schools to prepare students for whatever future they want to pursue -- be it a four-year university, trade school or a post-high school job.

Nair told the group Tuesday night that the district needed to create a detailed analysis of the facilities currently used by SD2 and then create a facilities master plan -- the district's long-term vision for itself.

The board voted last month to move forward with a facilities master plan by the end of the year.

Following that, Nair said, the district needs to create a pilot learning community at one elementary and one middle school. He said the high schools didn't need one.

"You have the best pilot in the world with the Career Center," he said.

A pilot learning community would give the community a chance to see Fielding Nair recommendations in action and give SD2 staff the chance to figure out how to implement them.

That led to a number of questions from the group about how specifically to do it.

"At some point are we going to talk about the specifics of implementing a pilot project?" one woman asked.

Nair responded that he was tasked with giving the district a vision. He's done that, he said. The community has an outline in the report Fielding Nair prepared. Now they need to go forward and decide what changes will best work with the community.

"There's no treading water," he said. "Either you're going to improve or you fall behind."

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