Part of my job as a post-secondary design educator was to make my students aware that if they didn’t take full and proper care of business at the front end of a design and problem-solving process, they would increase the chances of there being a host of problems occurring at the back end that could be difficult if not impossible to fix.
The situations that Richmond School District is facing in regards to declining enrolments, possible closures, and lack of funding for building upgrades are consequences of uneducated, uninformed city/community planning on the part of the City of Richmond — a lack of design awareness and thinking in the past that has led to serious and perhaps unsolvable problems in the present.
The schools that were built in Richmond from the 1960s on were in response to the growing number of residential complexes that were being built across the city, and those homes were almost entirely occupied by middle-class families with school-aged children (my family moved into such a complex in 1956), and up until 10-15 years ago there was still a relatively viable balance between student populations and seats available in classrooms.
But with these family homes being progressively replaced by new edifices that either remain unoccupied, or are used as hotels or for ‘other’ purposes, the number of children in many neighbourhoods has been, and continues to be, drastically reduced with every passing year — thus the problems school board is now facing.
On every count this is a situation that exemplifies the principles related to informed and responsible design that I tried to impart to my students.
Had those who have governed Richmond for the last 50 years bothered to educate themselves as to the longitudinal consequences of uninformed and unconcerned city/community planning and been prescient enough to implement laws and codes that would have inhibited or prevented what is happening to our once family-friendly neighbourhoods, today’s families and our school board would not be faced with the problems and challenges that now exist.