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Blind Spots

posted in: 21st Century School Buildings | 0
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What Is Wrong With This Picture? Students are not tested for vision after 8th grade in Baltimore City Public Schools. When students are attempting to read and learn, wouldn’t it be great if they could see the blackboard? As part of a STEM exercise at a high school, we have offered eye chart screenings to students. In both years of this informal, voluntary screening, we have found students that clearly needed vision correction. Two students couldn’t read the top letter on the eye chart. How can we expect students to read and learn if they can’t see the letters?

So.. Your Plan is to Move the School Closer to the Superfund Site?

Ever discover something a little late into the process?

“You aren’t eating those blackberries, are you?..
Didn’t you know this is a Superfund site?”

The president of the neighborhood association was looking at me with concern as my blue stained fingers and lips were answering her questions all by themselves as I froze, wide-eyed in front of her.

Yes, I could still taste the six sweet berries I’d picked and devoured moments ago.
And No, I didn’t know that there was a Superfund site on the edge of the school property.
So I was quickly running the calculus on whether I needed to reroute their path from my digestive system.

Had the roots and stems of the black berries conveyed toxic chemicals into the berries?
Had the venting of chemicals at the site coated the berries?
Would I develop health issues from a six berry dosage?

Sure, it’s not the typical math calculation one would encounter at the high school, but it seemed like a pretty good STEM problem to work through in the next, um, 60 seconds as the berries were still digesting.

This is a perfect example of why it’s important to involve community members, students and staff into the school and neighborhood planning processes. They often know the area, its people, history, and potential often far better than the experts involved in the design.

The existing plan is to build the new school closer to the
Superfund site.

This is an excellent opportunity for students to investigate the history and remediation of the site and to offer information
and guidance to the school system on whether the new school should be built closer to this site.

Here are some links to documents concerning the site:

https://semspub.epa.gov/work/03/103798.pdf

https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/dsp_ssppSiteData1.cfm?id=0300344#Why

Here is a document outlining work at the site. Below this is a quick list of items that students may wish to research. -shan

EPA’s Involvement at this Site

•The EPA completed the first phase of the cleanup, removing drums and contaminated soils back in 1984. Approximately 1,200 drums were removed, some containing flammable solids.
•EPA also entered into a covenant not to sue with Bay View Golf Inc in 1997.
•The fifth five-year review for the soil capped area (Operable Unit 1 or OU1), which is currently a golf driving range, was done in April 2010 and found that the components of the remedy constructed as part of the OU1 Record of Decision remain protective of human health and the environment. The remedy for Operable Unit 2 has not been implemented, and therefore is not subject to review until construction of the remedy is underway.
•A Vapor Intrusion (VI) study was completed in summer of 2014. Three commercial buildings were found to have potential VI issues. A VI mitigation system was installed by PRPs at one commercial building in 2014 and mitigation work is in progress for another one.
•More monitoring wells were installed as part of Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS)and FFS.
•During Spring 2014 two pilot extraction wells were installed and the pilot extraction and treatment system is expected to start in fall of 2015. Data will be collected to evaluate hydraulics of the bedrock aquifer.

What is the current site status?

•During Spring 2014 two pilot extraction wells were installed and the pilot extraction and treatment system is expected to start in fall of 2015. Data will be collected to evaluate hydraulics of the bedrock aquifer.
What’s being done to protect human health and the environment?
•The site is being addressed through federal and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.
•The agency chose a soil management plan to establish health and safety requirements.
•EPA has conducted several five-year reviews of the site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by site decision documents. The most recent review concluded that response actions at the site, for the parts of the remedy that have been implemented, are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment.

Enforcement Information

EPA signed an administrative consent order with the PRPs to perform a focused feasibility study to evaluate a different cleanup strategy for the groundwater.

Renewable Energy Activity

The 10-acre Kane & Lombard Street Drums Superfund site is located at the corner of Kane and Lombard streets in Baltimore, Maryland. For more than 22 years, an open dump for disposing of demolition, municipal and industrial wastes operated at the site. Disposal activities resulted in the contamination of groundwater and soil at the site. At the request of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), EPA investigated the site. In 1986, EPA added the site to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL). EPA worked closely with the local community, MDE, and a private investment group to design and implement a cleanup that allowed for the redevelopment of the property. As part of the site remedy, EPA removed drums of waste, installed a subsurface barrier to prevent further contamination of groundwater and constructed a permanent cap over contaminated soil. EPA also restricted land and groundwater use at the site to prevent exposure to contaminated soil and groundwater. Today, the property is home to a golf course driving range, a parking lot, a cellular telephone tower, a sea-land trailer repair facility and a trucking facility.

Here are some of the questions students could investigate:

Where did the barrels come from?

What chemicals did the barrels contain?

What are the estimates for leakage at the site(s)

What was done in the remediation so far?

What areas/buildings have been affected by the site?

Has there been recent testing? If so, what do these test show?

When was the aquifer at the site drained?

What did the water and air tests show at that time?

What was the legal settlement with EPA?

What about remediation 2? Was it started? If not, why not?

What is the area contaminated by the chemicals?

Good luck on this learning project. Let me know if you have problems finding information or if you need help.

-shan
410 336 8239

Why Build 21st Century Schools With 20th Century Thinking?

posted in: 21st Century School Buildings, Blog | 1

 

The 21st Century School building project is off to a  rocky start.

  • School closings and mergers have angered students, parents and communities.
  • Estimates of constructions costs have been higher than anticipated.
  • Moving students to temporary schools has been problematic.
  • The school design process has generally lacked the outreach, communication and collaboration it needs to be effective.
  • And almost every project is running behind schedule.

It has been a lot to ask of Baltimore City Schools to go from putting up a few buildings each decade to renew all of its schools in a decade, especially as the district is shedding staff each year in response to budget cuts.

But if we focus on making three improvements now, we can still build our schools, our learning and our communities as we promised at the beginning of this process.

 

1) We need to decide what kind of schools we are building. 

Are we simply building schools with new windows, air conditioning and design features?

Are we building new schools with space for after school programs run by community organizations?

Or are we building schools that also involve and promote our communities with services, education and opportunities?

This third type of school requires that we not only design our schools differently, but that we have to think differently about the role of our schools, the hours they are open, and how we welcome our parents, community members and organizations into the school.   

If we build it they will come is a great assumption for a community school .. unless you lock it or charge fees for using it..which is what we do now.

 

2) We need to  improve the outreach and collaboration of the school design process to include the concerns and wisdom of our teachers, students, parents, community members and experts.

I’ve spoken with school principals and teachers who had no idea of the status of the design or building process at their school and felt left out of the design decisions for their schools. 

If we are building these schools to encourage teachers to collaborate, why isn’t this design process the perfect learning collaboration for teachers, students and design experts? 

And why is the school design process run by City Schools running independently from the neighborhood design process run by Baltimore City?

 

3) We need to find better values in construction.

Independent building experts should be allowed to look over preliminary designs to find savings through design integration, better sourcing, bulk purchasing and long term savings.

We have a choice between checking some boxes on citizen involvement and building (clumsily) to the lowest allowed standard or blazing a trail for other school districts to follow.  It’s time to decide which way we want to go.

Learning By Design: How the 21st Century School Building project can create better learning, collaboration and schools.

Building More Than Buildings:

How the 21st Century Building Project can improve our learning, collaboration, and the schools we build.

 

When Andre Alonso announced the funding of the 21st Century School Building project in Baltimore City, he restated a quote from Winston Churchill:

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”

It is a reminder of the importance of this shaping, and of our opportunity to build learning and community through the design process. If our buildings are to transform our education and our communities, we must first transform how we shape them.
Meaningful involvement of teachers, students, community members and experts in the design of these buildings can inform the architects and city planners of the needs, problems and hopes for the school and community. In turn, these experts can share their insights on how to create better functioning buildings, improve neighborhood design, and access job opportunities. This collaborative learning enables us to build not just a better school building, but also a better school culture and more successful students and communities.

 
Charrette or Charade?

The size and speed of the school construction project is daunting.     It is easier to look across a nearly empty room and check the box for community involvement and move on. But if we are to build learning and gain the wisdom and support of our communities, we need to fill these rooms and strengthen relationships still aching from school closings. Poor communication, and short, disjointed public engagement is failing to create the sustained involvement and trust necessary for successful collaboration. Even staff and teachers have been left without valid information on the status of their school construction projects.
Failure to integrate the design process into school curriculum and after school programs robs our students of a golden opportunity to learn and to shape their future.
Shaping our learning  (we don’t have to wait to collaborate).
Building and neighborhood design processes are perfectly suited for collaborative STEM and experiential learning—the learning these new schools are supposed to foster. Engaging students, faculty and community members in this learning can prepare them to participate in the design process while strengthening their skills in math, science, engineering, health, and economics.
Starting with their existing school, students can collect data on the temperatures, humidity, air quality, lighting, acoustics, and asthma triggers. They can study how to improve bus service, reduce energy use and storm water runoff at their school. This information can help inform the school design process and prepare students to examine larger questions including:

• What are the biggest problems in the community and how can our school help solve them?
• How can our school foster the health and learning of our students and community?
• How can our school help students and their families obtain economic and educational opportunities?

Studying these issues with planning experts and community members would bring more wisdom to the design processes and demonstrate how we can learn and collaborate to solve real problems.  This is the educational and cultural transformation that Baltimore needs. If we are to build our promises, we need to start now with pilot programs and partners.
-Shan