Growing Panes- Looking Through the Window of Growth
In August 2010, the International School of Kenya began the school year by welcoming 751 students on campus. Fast forward twelve years and our student population is currently 1050 strong. During this incremental growth, we have had to adapt and adopt. The proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” no doubt has informed and supported our growth and this pattern of incremental growth is expected to continue. Looking further beyond the horizon, it is important to dream and prepare so that our adaptations are not simply reactive but proactive and visionary as we imagine ISK with a student population of 1300.
Schools of 751 require less complex systems and structures than schools of 1051. When it was easy to know everyone in the organization, informal connections did the trick and supported a strong sense of community. If my computer freezes, I would call Michael and he would run up to my office and work his magic. If I forgot to write that note giving my son permission to go to his friend’s house after school for a play date, I would just give the divisional secretary a call, apologize and she would make sure all was OK. Scale and complexity are linked and as scales rise, informal systems can crack. As ISK grows, it is critical that we do all we can to ensure that our systems can handle the complexities of a larger school while maintaining the personalized connections we have come to love and expect at ISK.
I have had the pleasure of working in schools of 400 and schools of 1800 where we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community. There are certainly ways of making larger schools still feel small but these changes must be carefully engineered. The Board’s Facilities Committee is currently exploring what a campus of 1300 students will look, sound, and feel like as we develop the next phase of our Facilities Master Plan. One guiding question is “what spaces will support student learning at ISK over the next several years?” We are meeting with groups and surveying the community for input and hope to have the plans ready to share by the end of the school year.
Working closely with the Board’s Facilities Committee is the 1200 Task Force. This Ad Hoc Board committee is asking if 1200 - 1300 students is still the ideal target size for ISK and if this holds true, what ISK would look like in terms of people, place, and program. These are the types of generative conversations that help us proactively plan for growth. It will help us engineer the systems and structures that will ensure that even in a larger school, people are still known and noticed. I am very proud and grateful for the collaborative and proactive approach that ISK is taking when planning for our future. Something that has become crystal clear to me through these processes is that our strong sense of community must be preserved during any future growth. This is a key ingredient in ISK’s “special sauce” and one that we are committed to maintaining as we plan for an exciting future.