History of MSDG

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The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) and the Educational Design Institute (EDI) of Mississippi State University have collaborated to write these new school facility guidelines for the State of Mississippi. These guidelines were developed through a collaborative process with 154 participants concerned with the design, construction, and maintenance of school facilities. The guidelines cover school facility issues from the planning of new facilities to the maintenance of existing facilities. While not mandatory, we believe that these guidelines provide a good, practical guide whether a district is renovating an older building or starting the process of planning a new building. The Educational Design Institute is a collaborative effort of Mississippi State University's School of Architecture and College of Education. The mission of EDI in collaboration with students, parents, educators, school administrators, school boards, and communities is to promote and encourage the creation of safe, accessible, flexible and developmentally appropriate learner-centered environments in the State of Mississippi.


The Mississippi School Design Guidelines were developed with several goals in mind:

To Link Educational Goals and Facilities Design

For educational facilities to aid in improving the quality of education, the design must support the educational goals of a school. While the educational environment is only one factor in providing a quality education, an unsupportive educational environment can create obstacles and distractions to learning, eroding the quality of instruction. When an environment supports educational goals, that environment goes beyond eliminating obstacles and actually suggests new opportunities for learning.

To Facilitate Flexible, Performance-Based Application

The guidelines are voluntary, written as a guide and learning tool for school boards, school administrators, and their design professionals. This approach will help generate the appropriate questions, but not dictate solutions. The definition of, the advantages, the disadvantages, questions to ask, and further references are identified in each of the guidelines. The guidelines in many cases set up standards for performance in building design, construction, and maintenance, but do not dictate an approach. While there are many common goals for facility design, school districts and their design professionals need the flexibility to find an approach based on the individual needs of a school or district.

To Encourage Collaborative Development

In planning the development of the guidelines, MDE and EDI recognized the need to address diverse issues not only issues of maintenance, durability, and basic functionality but also of community use, compatibility to the educational program, and future fl exibility. The diversity of issues involved argued for a process considering many different viewpoints.

Process began with EDI collecting design guidelines from the 43 states that have these written guidelines. EDI and MDE then sent invitations to architects, engineers, construction companies, and school districts to participate in a series of workshops to determine the key issues that the guidelines should address.

On June 14, August 30, and October 11, 2000, MDE and EDI held workshops in Jackson, MS to get input from organizations and individuals involved in the design and construction of school buildings. Three focus groups were established corresponding to three broad categories of facilities issues: health and safety issues, ambient environmental issues (acoustics, temperature, lighting, etc.), and curriculum-based design factors (size of schools, different learning activities impact on the facility, etc.). The focus groups consisted of ten to fifteen people and included community leaders, engineers, architects, general contractors, building product representatives, school administrators, and representatives from the Department of Education. These groups developed an initial set of guidelines.

A second stage of workshops occurred between October 19 and November 16, 2000. MDE and EDI visited nine school districts geographically distributed throughout the state to get the opinion of teachers, administrators, and superintendents on the guidelines as developed thus far and to learn of additional issues educators want addressed in the design of schools. There were 90 participants at these workshops.

Writing and research of the guidelines started in January, 2001. In addition to the staff of EDI, architectural students enrolled in an independent study class conducted research for the guidelines. A small advisory group met with the EDI staff to review the progress of the guidelines. When the guidelines were completed, the advisory group reviewed the guidelines again.

By developing the guidelines collaboratively with the users of the guidelines, school administrators, teachers, architects, and engineers, the guidelines have benefited from real-world experience in the problems and solutions of school design and maintenance.

To Become a Tool to Train Superintendents

Because superintendents are trained to educate children, not to design a building or supervise a construction project, these guidelines will help school administrators by suggesting the right questions to ask their design and construction professionals, by providing concise background information on issues, and by offering references for further research. By reading the guidelines, a school administrator can get a solid start on handling facilities issues and a general overview of school design and planning.

To Guide for Future Capital Improvements

For school administrators, planning large capital improvements can be one of the most important projects of their tenure. The guidelines have information on school planning to help school administrators through these large projects. The guidelines cover building size and site selection issues. Non-building issues such as community involvement, the sharing of facilities with other governmental entities, and public use of school facilities are covered as well. By laying out all of the issues involved in school planning, the guidelines are a checklist and reminder of all the possibilities for strategic planning efforts.