Key Finding: Unexpected Usage Patterns
The Learning Commons project completed in Fall 2019, which meant it was occupied amid multiple major changes in how the school operated. First and foremost was the unfortunate surprise of COVID-19 which affected students and educators alike. Societal disruptions from the pandemic began shortly after completing renovations. Changes in school operation to support public health made things like class visits more difficult, but it also made the ability to spread out within the Learning Commons much more valuable. This kind of flexibility resulted in an increase in book circulation even while COVID disruptions were still significant in 2021.
Another shift was the implementation of Flex-Mod scheduling: a surprise to designers and school personnel alike! Flex-Mod scheduling uses very short class chunks to build student schedules. These small chunks presented more opportunities for students to schedule independent time in their day, which resulted in higher foot traffic in the Learning Commons. Surges in traffic strained staff’s ability to safely supervise the space. Consequently, school personnel needed to use security gates when designers had not expected: during the day.
“There’s one thing I would change: I would have the gates open.”
—Free State High School Student