Better Learning Podcast: Connecting Communities at Saint Paul Public Schools

Better Learning Podcast: Connecting Communities at Saint Paul Public Schools

Walking into our master planning process [with Cuningham], we didn’t have an expectation that it would become so transformational in its scale.

Tom Parent, Saint Paul Public Schools Executive Director of Operations and Administration

The Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) Master Facilities Plan, which creates a framework for equity and priority setting for the long term also fosters opportunities for the SPPS community to be directly involved in the planning and creation of their educational spaces.

Cuningham’s Meg Parsons and Heidi Neumueller recently joined Saint Paul Public Schools Executive Director of Operations and Administration Tom Parent on the Better Learning Podcast to discuss the history, process, and ongoing efforts of Cuningham’s Master Facilities Plan for the District. 

“This facilities master plan was about a transformation for the district. It was about aligning the facilities to their strategic plan and creating places for kids to learn and teachers to teach. That emphasis is very different than many districts I’ve worked with in my career.”

Meg Parsons

Principal | Board Chair

The transformative power of inviting all stakeholders into the design process is fully reflected in Cuningham’s work with SPPS. Close collaboration with students, teachers, and community members has led the district to implement progressive design solutions–like inclusive restrooms–and a variety of regenerative strategies that make schools more sustainable and connect students with their natural surroundings.

Listen to the full episode for more on the ideas that are helping SPPS shape their schools for the better.


All-Inclusive Restrooms Interior

Inclusive Restrooms

“In a post occupancy survey of all 1200 students at Saint Paul Public School’s Johnston High School, in which inclusive restrooms were implemented, 61% of responses indicated these restrooms made them feel more safe. That’s a big deal. If students aren’t getting basic needs met and feeling safe going to the bathroom, how are they expected to take risks in their learning environment?”  

- Heidi Neumueller, Better Learning Podcast

Learn more about the key design components that separate inclusive from gender-segregated restrooms.

Connecting Ecological and Social Well-Being at Bruce Vento Elementary

Made possible through a long-standing and close-knit working relationship with Saint Paul Public Schools, Cuningham's recent workshop with the Bruce Vento community demonstrates how regenerative design strategies can be fine-tuned to reflect the unique needs of a school’s students, teachers, and community members.

Learn more

Through the Lens of Trauma-Informed Design

Trauma-informed design is an approach to the built environment that is rooted in equity and empathy. As the concept rapidly gains traction in the design industry and beyond, Cuningham is working to show how educational environments can incorporate trauma informed design concepts into a project’s vision, goals, and design process.

Learn more

Better Learning
The Better Learning Podcast is hosted by Kevin Stoller, CEO of Kay-Twelve and author of Creating Better Learning Environments. The podcast is also associated with other organizations that are focused on improving education including the Education Leaders’ Organization (ELO), the Second Class Foundation, and the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE).

Meg Parsons

Author: Margaret (Meg) Parsons

Posted In: Ideas


Author: Heidi Neumueller

Posted In: Ideas