The October 2 Princeton Board of Education facilities referendum is actually a vote on major changes to our educational system. On February 8 Superintendent Steve Cochrane, architect Prakesh Nair, and educator Heidi Hayes Jacobs presented their plans for the future of our schools — new pedagogy and open plan buildings with few interior walls that are a rebranded version of the failed open space schools of the 1960s and ’70s. Approving the construction funding gives de facto approval to drastically changing how students will be taught.
The presentation was heavy on PR and theoretical educational philosophy but lacked hard data. As a former teacher, teacher trainer, and textbook creator I question many of their assumptions. My online research yielded many negative reviews but not one positive review of schools that have enacted this new plan.
I urge Mr. Cochrane, the school board, local media, and Princetonians to research open plan schools. We need to know how this change will affect all students. If that means postponing the referendum, so be it.
— Sheila Siderman, Bouvant Drive
Open plan buildings drastically change how students are taught — especially students with learning issues, psychiatric problems, and attention deficit disorder.
I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and have done evaluations of children in the West Windsor-Plainsboro school district where they had a school with open classrooms. It was a disaster. Even I could not concentrate to evaluate the children for their issues. Their newer high school has the closed classrooms.
— Dr. Naomi Vilko, White Oak Drive
The Princeton school district addresses the “open classroom” issue on its Facebook page, stating that the district “is part of an exciting movement across the nation to reimagine school.
“As we finalize our designs for the proposed facilities referendum in October, we want you to know that ‘open classrooms’ are a thing of the past and not what we are working towards. Instead, we are upgrading our spaces to be flexible and adaptable to the kind of learning our students and teachers need to do today.
“Our architects are designing spaces for collaboration and creativity, with walls where we need them and furniture that moves and adjusts.”