Don’t Judge a School by Its Building
An article in the Columbia Daily Tribune explains the commotion over the Columbia Public Schools’ brand-new elementary school building. The problem with it? It looks too nice — much nicer than the districts’ other buildings. Some people say it’s inequitable for one school in the district to have handsome facilities while other school buildings need repair.
Those people would probably prefer that the district divide up expenditures, improving each building a little bit at a time. But that’s not always practical. It can be more cost-effective to build a new structure than to continually patch up an old one. And seldom (if ever) does any district have the opportunity to build new schools for all students simultaneously.
Some children in Columbia Public Schools enjoy nicer buildings than others, and some districts have more expensive auditoriums and science labs than Columbia Public Schools. However, that’s not the main cause of educational inequity. Much more important than the appearance of buildings is what children learn inside of them. A school that looks drab on the outside may have excellent teachers and a great curriculum. On the other hand, a new building is no proof that classroom materials or teaching practices have been improved.
No matter how good your building is, you’ll always be able to find a school out there that’s physically superior in some way. (For example, although the Ladue School District has many new classrooms, it recently sent out a newsletter stating that various cafeteria and library spaces fall short of Missouri School Improvement Guidelines.) The quest for perfect buildings could be unending, but it would be better to pursue perfect academics instead.