2021 | COVID-19 STRATEGY | K-6 Schools - Jun Zi Lan Montessori

Who will benefit from this project?
School facilities are unique because of their building typology and occupants. Most have four times the density of office spaces, which increases the opportunity of infectious disease spread. Children are vulnerable because of their developing physical and mental health. Each school or district must evaluate their protocols based on individual timelines, finances, and staff. It is important to note that comfort levels will vary among families, educators, and staff.

Jun Zi Lan Montessori School is a community dedicated to developing respectful, self-motivated, and life-long learners. The Jun Zi Lan Montessori program is also one of most unique programs within the Wildflower Schools and Montessori system, as it is the only bilingual (Chinese-English) Montessori program in the Cambridge, MA area. It is also a minority woman owned business. With this unique pairing, Jun Zi Lan’s Montessori system is designed for students ranging from 2-years to 6-year-old. Each cluster of 5 students or less is focused and paired with 2 lead teachers.

How will working with an architecture team enhance the project and support your goals?
Jun Zi Lan Montessori by WE-DESIGNS will be one of the rare bilingual (Chinese-English) programs in the United States. This rare opportunity brings bi-racial and bilingual families to learn more about cultures that are key to developing a more diverse and equitable community. This project is a keystone project that highlights both M/WBE Architecture and Non-Profit partnerships, and POC (People of Color) in architecture, design, health, and schools.

Working with the WE-DESIGNS team would allow our Jun Zi Lan Montessori partners access to a dedicated team of experts, trained-architects, designers, educators, and creative-researchers. As a dedicated educator with over a decade of teaching experience, our managing partner, Wendy W Fok, has a sincere and full-hearted interest in developing a replicable and modular system of post-COVID-19 design-solution for the Montessori schools. We want to make this a systematic prototype that could be used both throughout the United States and abroad, as a standard and launch point for how to engage with elementary school students between the ages of 2 and 6-years-old.

More significantly, if this partnership succeeds, it will provide the larger Montessori school systems to have access to a useful, safer, and healthy opportunity to bring joy, life, and diverse communities together. Schools are not only a pillar of support for communities, but they are also locations that foster the future growth in the minds of the next generation. Through building safer schools for the post-COVID-19 world, this example could set-forth momentum to realize a brighter future for children with less opportunity to attend elementary and pre-schools.

How does your project address sustainability (environmental, social, and/or economic)?
According to the AIA “Reopening America: Strategies for Safer Schools,” Schools are the beating heart that allow our communities to flourish by nurturing the next generations of talent, heroes, and leaders. While their primary purpose is to educate, school buildings and campuses provide several other community functions.

Students, families, and communities depend on schools for food, health services, social-emotional support, creative and physical outlets, protection, and human connectivity. For the 2019–20 school year, elementary and secondary schools in the United States supported nearly 56.5 million students while employing 3.7 million teachers.

During the pandemic, more than 130,000 elementary and secondary school buildings in the US were closed, sending all students home. Innovations like virtual learning enabled educators to continue teaching students. However, barriers to virtual learning exacerbated socio-economic inequities among students. Accessibility to virtual classrooms varies depending on technological means, including Internet capabilities and computer or tablet availability. In some households, students learn and complete schoolwork on smartphones that are sometimes shared among siblings.

Our proposal wants to change this. We want to allow our design to promote more equitable educational opportunities for biracial and bilingual families, communities, children, and the future of people of diverse backgrounds.

Take Away:
The entire world is trying to figure out what comes next, and no one has all the answers. We feel it is important to take it one step at a time at re-evaluating the needs of education, especially for children under 10-years-old, and continuously evaluate the response as our collective vision clears.

Category: Education, Healthcare, COVID-19 Pandemic
Industry: Education
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Related to: Future of Urban Living, Urban Development, Economy, Future of Education
Designers: Wendy W Fok, Carmen Cordova
Case Study:  Jun Zi Lan – Montessori