Florida Charter School Develops a New, Highly-Collaborative School Building
- 8th April 2021
- Anthony Bowie
A part of the Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla., Literacy Leadership Technology (LLT) Academy was founded in 2005 with the goal of creating a place for middle school students to focus on technology.
It would later add Franklin Covey’s “Leader in Me” program as part of its core offering, giving the charter school such a unique twist that it currently has a waiting list that’s several years long.
Over the last 16 years, LLT has added several new facilities, with its most recent project being a brand new school. “We started from scratch,” said Lesley Logan, Founder and Chief Education Officer, “and designed it in a way that aligned with exactly how we teach students.”
Encompassing 58,000 square feet and situated on nine acres of land, the new facility includes numerous “collaboration spaces” where students can go to gather, bounce ideas off each other, do their schoolwork, and come up with action ideas for their own school (e.g., deciding what teams or clubs they’d like to have on campus).
“We don’t have those collaborative spaces at our other school, where most of the collaboration takes place out in the hallways or other areas,” said Logan, who set her sights on filling the new space with furniture that was comfortable and vibrant, and that merged well with the school’s underlying mission and teaching approach.
Using Covid relief funds (on top of the $12.5 million total building renovation budget), the school was able to buy additional, modular tables that can be more readily spaced and moved. Working closely with MiEN, LLT Academy picked the furniture, fabrics, and colors that would fit well in its new building. For its media center, for instance, the school wanted comfortable, inviting furniture that students could use while enjoying the center’s resources.
“No one wants to sit in a hard chair when they read a book; they want to relax a little bit,” Logan explains. “I felt that the furniture choices we made really added to the children’s sense of freedom, ownership, and collaboration.”
Due to COVID, LLT Academy hasn’t been able to make full use of its new, collaborative spaces or building to their fullest potential. However, Logan said the school has big plans in store for next year, once it’s safe for students and teachers to return to a more “normal” campus environment.
For instance, she wants to move around the facility’s flexible furniture to accommodate large, collaborative groups. Once those sessions are complete, the same tables and chairs can be pushed into smaller groups of two or three for more focused learning. With a mix of high-top tables and mushroom tables to choose from, she said teachers will have plenty of options to choose from.
“It’s amazing when you walk into the classroom and middle schoolers are able to sit on the cushions on the floor,” Logan said. “They can move around, sit at the high-top tables, and move tables together and work as groups. It gives them more freedom in their learning.”
LLT Academy’s new school building also supports strong social-emotional learning (SEL) and helps students be happier and more comfortable in their learning environments.
“Most schools are built like institutions, with shades of gray and beige and nothing on their walls,” Logan added. “We want them to come to school, feel comfortable in their classrooms, and feel that joy when they looked at all of the different furniture options they have to choose from.”