The American Architectural Foundation reviewed a range of research about the best ways to design public schools. It came up with six principles, which suggest schools should:

* Provide spaces of different shapes and colors for a variety of learning activities that can involve groups of different sizes. Include quiet, private study areas. Give teachers stimulating teaching spaces and personal work spaces. Offer places to display student work.

* Build safety into the school design without creating intrusive, prison-like structures. Protect walking paths outside the school from traffic. Provide windows that open, localized heating and cooling controls and natural lighting.

* Promote "smart growth" by coordinating the location of the school with the surrounding community. Use nontoxic building materials. Chose systems that conserve water and energy.

* Design buildings that serve as symbols and centers of their communities. Make schools accessible by foot, car or mass transit and allow them to be used for public recreation and civic participation.

* Involve the public in designing schools. Go beyond including parents, teachers and students to also involve community groups, business groups and senior citizens. Provide clear, honest information about the cost of the school and how it will be paid for.

* Be cost-effective by using materials that are easy to maintain without sacrificing aesthetics. Ensure that the school is designed to be adaptable because part of being cost-effective is accommodating changes in curriculum, technology or community needs.


The six-year-old Manassas Park High School has improved light, versatility and open spaces.