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Learning Space Modernization

​Learning Space Modernization

An initiative to update the built environment 
to serve the needs of our 21st century learners

The division’s current & recent capital program includes minimal funding for the renovation of current spaces.  The average age of the original portions of our schools is 1970.  As our buildings age and the needs of students evolve, learning spaces must be maintained, updated and modernized. 

The School Board has identified “Priority 1.3: Integrate the use of contemporary learning spaces and supportive technologies into the instructional program delivery” in support of their one student-centered goal: All Albemarle County Public Schools students will graduate having actively mastered the lifelong-learning skills they need to succeed as 21st century learners, workers, and citizens. 

An evaluation of the entire division indicates that the majority of spaces are not meeting the design imperatives of contemporary learning spaces:  transparency, sustainability, flexibility, mobility/interactivity, making everywhere, problem/project/passion based learning, choice & comfort, inside/outside.  These imperatives are integral to the success of the curriculum and work of the 21st century student.

Brownsville Media CenterResearch has proven that student learning is affected by the use and design of the learning space.  This includes proper furniture, presence of daylighting, and many other characteristics of the space.  This goal recognizes for students to meet the challenges of the 21st century, they must be lifelong learners who are able to acquire new skills and understandings in an ever changing and increasingly complex world. This is consistent with the focus both past and current educational platforms of Virginia’s governors to prepare Virginia’s current students for post-secondary degrees and “top jobs” in a tech-driven economy.

Learning areas must be flexible spaces that can shift to accommodate a range of instructional activities and student needs, both current and future.  To do so, funding is necessary to refurbish and renovate spaces to meet and support contemporary learning expectations.

2014 Space Evaluation

Chart showing ages of ACPS school buildings 


 Collage of four images showing dated furnishings, shelving, infrastructure


This project will begin to fund needed improvements to instructional spaces at ALL schools including existing classrooms, libraries, and other elective and support areas. The work will take 10+ years.  Modifications will include furniture and renewal work including updating finishes, casework, lighting and connections to adjacent spaces.  The modifications should be comprehensive, but can be broken down in the following key areas:

Classroom Furniture Upgrade
Update furniture to create a flexible & comfortable learning environment.  This includes ergonomic seating choice, work surfaces that vary in height & size but are all mobile, & adequate storage. Renovate media centers to be flexible hubs of congregation, collaboration, & creation.  This includes updating furniture, shelving, and accessory spaces. 
Cafeteria Modernization
Update cafeteria finishes & furniture to offer choice and comfort as well as help students learn real world social dining skills.  These spaces should be envisioned not just a place to eat, but rather dynamic spaces that can be used throughout the day.
Specialty Classroom Modernization
Renovate existing spaces to create state-of-the-art science labs, music, art, CTE & other specialty rooms.  Create dedicated maker spaces.
Add day lighting to spaces with no or minimal natural light.   Update blinds or shades in spaces with natural light to better control the light.


“When asked to think about why modernization is important in the world of education one simply needs to think about how much our world is changing and at the ever increasing speed and ask why would we want our students in a learning environment that represents what was best in the world of education in 1963. If we need to prepare our students for the future, they need to be able see the future in how they are learning and working. Think back to 53 years ago-we were still preparing students for the industrialization age and the Information Age was just an idea. Well now we are in the Information Age and we are likely preparing our students for what some might call the Virtual Age. Are our schools prepared for this?
Lisa Molinaro, Woodbrook Principal
"Modernization of spaces will place students in authentic learning environments that support creative thinking, problem solving, and learning.  When students enter my space, you can see the spark in their eyes as they see all the potential they can accomplish in this room.  The space that we have at SMS has allowed our students to have access to diverse resources, collaborate in flexible environments, and create products that they never imagined were possible."
Robert Munsey, Sutherland Teacher
"The framework for choice and comfort creates an opportunity for students to thrive in workspaces that set them up for optimal learning success.  I just recently was given three student rocking chairs.  This simple change in seating has caused specific students to demonstrate higher levels of focus and stronger participation in group discussions.  I can truly say that my students share ownership of our classroom space, and it’s a place designed with student preferences in mind.  I feel very proud to work in a division where this kind of fluidity and flexibility is embraced."
Leslie Wills-Taylor, Woodbrook Teacher
"The learning space and furniture should enhance high quality learning opportunities that allow learners the flexibility, choice and comfort to excel. The world we live in and the work environments our students will be in are constantly evolving and changing; why shouldn't the educational setting reflect or even drive that change? Anecdotal comments from our students are overwhelmingly positive about our modern classrooms and furniture giving us the ability to manipulate the rooms into innumerable configurations.  Simply put, our environment in the TEAM Program is dynamic and allows students opportunities that antiquated rows of desks cannot."
TEAM19 Teachers
"The contemporary classrooms are no longer spaces that have a singular purpose of students going in quietly and sitting at a desk to be given their “lesson” for the day and than leaving.  They are now wide open spaces with comfortable furniture spread out that invites all kids to flow freely through them.  The rooms offer choices to read, share ideas, socialize, connect locally and globally, work quietly, and create various things.  There is a sense of formal and informal learning taking place.  The choice of space, furniture, and technology all play a crucial role in promoting a future generation of global thinkers that are comfortable working together and sharing ideas to better one another. "
Mia Shand, Agnor-Hurt Teacher
"Learning is multi-faceted.  Individual learners should have the ability to learn on their own terms using the tools and resources that best suit them.  In addition, as they progress and understand their strengths and weaknesses better, they should have a choice of how that is accomplished.  Schools should supply differentiated learning spaces, comfortable seating and multiple technology tools to allow students to make important instructional decisions.  The more instructional decisions they can make about their own education, the more likely they will be to invest in the everyday process of learning."
Michael Thorton, Agnor-Hurt Teacher
"Modernizing our current small classrooms to reflect a more open work space will increase our interactive "maker driven" curricula across the division. Most importantly, modernizing our classrooms will promote individual, group, and whole class explorations into topics that (a) increase workforce readiness skills and (b) help us reach a goal of combining traditional academic paths with career and technical programs. "

"School modernization allows for flexibility within the classroom.  As we work to create a more community driven space, we are aware that there is a need to change the environment instantly.  Students are constantly regrouping in the larger space; it is easy to do!"
Katina Dudley, HMSA Director

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