What is an Educational Program?


The creation of an Educational Program during the Feasibility Study Phase is a key step in planning an improved Arlington High School.  The Educational Program is a comprehensive report summarizing the district’s educational objectives and needs and is a strong driver for the ultimate design of the building.  The report includes a statement of the teaching philosophy and methods; a thorough, in-depth explanation of the district’s curriculum goals; and objectives of the program elements associated with the High School.

The Educational Program informs the building design process so that the final construction will be responsive to current teaching and learning programs and practices. A strong Educational Program also allows flexibility to accommodate future changes in programming,  learning environments and educational delivery methods during the useful life of the school facility. 

Read the AHS Educational Program that was submitted to the MSBA in July 2018.


The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requires Arlington High School to document its Educational Program and define proposed educational activities. Then the district can work effectively with HMFH Architects (the designer for the AHS Building Project), Skanska (the Owner’s Project Manager), and the local community to develop, evaluate, and select a design that supports its educational objectives and needs. The MSBA offers a template which communities find helpful in:

  • initiating local discussions regarding current educational programming
  • considering potential adjustments or improvements the district could realize with a proposed project
  • generating an Educational Program that clearly articulates a district’s educational goals and needs

The template lists the various aspects that impact how a school functions, from curricula through technology and from transportation to lunch. The MSBA also has sample Educational Programs on its Web site.

First step – Educational Vision

The process begins with documenting the Educational Vision, and proceeds to a comprehensive description of the Education Program provided by the school department. The Educational Vision describes the specific curricula, courses and programs that will be offered at Arlington High School.

To see how the Educational Vision and Educational Program fit into the Feasibility Study Phase, see this diagram from HMFH Architects.

The Educational Vision is created through input from an Educational Visioning Committee, Department Heads, district leaders and the community.  The Educational Visioning Committee, comprised of teachers, students, district leaders, parents and community members, is meeting monthly in January, February and March for a total of 12 hours.  A community forum focused on the Educational Vision for AHS will be held on February 7th.  

The Educational Visioning process will be facilitated by David Stephen, of New Vista Design. Mr. Stephen previously facilitated teacher and community input for the Gibbs School project.

The Educational Vision will answer the question of what will be taught at Arlington High School after the improvements. Curricula offered now range from humanities such as English Language Arts, History and World Languages to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) courses. The vision will outline all the curricula, which will be the starting point for determining the teaching spaces required. The Vision will also include teaching methods and practices planned to be used. Choice of methods and practices impact space requirements, such as labs for science, and a makerspace and media center for research and creative design and construction work.

The comprehensive Educational Vision will be presented to and reviewed by the High School Building Committee and School Committee and will set the stage for developing the full Educational Program.

Second step – Educational Program

In addition to incorporating the specific curricula, courses and programs outlined in the Educational Vision, the Educational Program will include a detailed description of how education is delivered today. The program will discuss the current status in curriculum delivery, potential changes, and reasons for changing or not changing many aspects of the High School. Topics in the MSBA template include:

  • Grade and school configuration policies
  • Class sizes
  • School scheduling method
  • Teaching methodology and structure (e.g., academies, departments, houses, teams, etc.)
  • Administrative and academic organization/structure
    • English Language Arts/Literacy
    • Mathematics
    • Science
    • Social Studies
    • World Languages
    • Academic support
    • Student guidance and support services
  • Teacher planning and professional development
  • Technology instruction policies and program requirements and existing and planned educational technology equipment and systems
  • Media Center/Library
  • Visual Art programs
  • Performing Arts programs
  • Physical Education programs
  • Special Education programs
  • Special Education Day School Programs that the district currently provides within the buildings (for example, LABBB, a collaborative between Lexington, Arlington, Bedford, Belmont and Burlington)
  • STEM /STEAM / enrichment project-based programming and curricula including makerspaces
  • Any programs new to the school
  • Lunch programs

The design response to these aspects of the school will be discussed and included in the program. In addition, the MSBA wants to understand a typical day or week in the life of a student in the High School. In order to complete that picture, the Educational Program may include the following additional areas:

  • Projected master schedule for the High School
  • Narrative description of core academic educational activities intended inside and outside the general classrooms
  • Transportation policies
  • Functional and spatial relationships, including desired educational adjacencies
  • Design response including desired site features and/or layout considerations that support desired site adjacencies
  • Security and visual access requirements

The Educational Program will be a written document that outlines the activities and programs the building will need to support within its walls. The detailed Program will ensure that a high quality and forward looking Arlington High School education can be effectively delivered, both when the facility improvements are first completed, and also over the course of the building’s useful life. The Educational Program guides the vision of the shape of the building, and the shape of the building allows the Educational Program to fully come to life.


Updated December 10, 2018

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