Home Classrooms Went From Covid Necessity To Selling Point
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Home Classrooms Went From Covid Necessity To Selling Point

Parents are keeping the learning areas they built during the pandemic intact

By Alina Dizik
Fri, Aug 13, 2021 11:44amGrey Clock 6 min

Emily Porche swears by one holdover from her family’s life under lockdown: her children’s learning space.

Ms. Porche initially designed the room as a virtual classroom for her young daughters, but now it is a favorite hangout. With both girls back in school, the hanging chair is a spot for reading and the hand-built desks are used for cursive-writing practice. Having a kid-approved study area has made school assignments less of a chore for Avery, 8, and Hadley, 5, she says.

“Looking past Covid, this is now a space for homework and projects,” says Ms. Porche, owner of an online interior-design company who purchased and renovated a Marietta, Ga., five-bedroom home four years ago for $680,000, according to public records. The classroom-turned-homework space fits the home’s overall modern-classic farmhouse vibe, she adds. It cost her about $3,000.

Georgia Lessons

Emily Porche created a learning space for her two children in her five-bedroom Marietta, Ga., home. Avery Porche, 5, uses the learning space at for art projects and homework.PHOTOS: EMILY PORCHE(2)
Even as school districts have proclaimed an end to virtual classes, parents have come away with their own lessons from the experience: the need for organized, stand-alone learning areas far from chaotic kitchen counters or distraction-filled bedrooms. In addition to repurposing rooms in existing homes, developers and real-estate agents also are marketing and staging these spaces to would-be buyers.

“The family’s priorities have changed,” says Fredrik Eklund, an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. “People want these learning centres.”

Listings over $1 million in 2021 that mentioned a learning space had a median time on the market of 45 days, 12 days less than homes that didn’t mention a learning space, according to data from Realtor.com. In May of this year, 1,178 homes mentioned terms related to learning spaces, a 58% increase from the same period last year, according to the data. (News Corp, owner of The Wall Street Journal, also operates Realtor.com under license from the National Association of Realtors.)
In New York, Lauren Steinberg used space near an open staircase to create workstations for her three middle-school children.
PHOTO: EVAN JOSEPH PHOTOGRAPHY

In her New York condo, Lauren Steinberg added three built-in computer monitors, chairs and desks near an open staircase at a cost of about $35,000 to help her middle-school-age children stay focused on doing their work. “I can always walk by and see them from upstairs; they aren’t locked away in their room,” says Ms. Steinberg, whose 5,108-square-foot Tribeca home is situated across three floors. It is on the market for $12 million.

When her children—a 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl—started back at school in the spring, Ms. Steinberg, an interior designer, found that the homework area created boundaries for using electronics. The desktop computers can’t be easily moved from room to room and so screen time is kept mostly to one area.

Doing homework in their bedrooms is now out of the question, she says. “I know they’d be slouching and laying down.”

The kid-approved office is around the corner from the ninja-warrior room and climbing wall, which makes it easier for the children to take breaks, she adds.

Real-estate agent Jim St. André says he is staging more lower-level floors to combine play and work areas for children. For older children, buyers are asking for spaces that are sealed off from the main living areas, for online work or even for musical-instrument practice, he adds.

A Place to Put Your Thinking Cap On

A New York townhome asking US$25 million includes a dedicated kids’ floor with lounges and study areas.

A children’s classroom is part of a dedicated kids’ floor inside a renovated New York townhome on sale for $25 million.
A children’s classroom is part of a dedicated kids’ floor inside a renovated New York townhome on sale for US$25 million.
BRYAN BANDUCCI FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“People now look at those spaces as being less recreational,” says Mr. St. André, who works with Compass in New York.

He is selling a 7,058-square-foot, renovated US$25 million Greek Revival townhouse complete with a kids’ floor that includes bedrooms, a lounge area with a couch and a learning space. “Buyers want a usefulness to some of these spaces that we are repurposing,” he adds.

In Los Angeles, a newly constructed 1765sqm home on sale for US$70 million includes a second-floor children’s wing complete with a study portal with a central library-style desk, built-in lighting and shelving. A kids’ television lounge borders the space, with the children’s bedrooms directly behind the recreation areas, says real-estate agent Blair Chang from The Agency.

Mr. Eklund, the Douglas Elliman agent, worked with a staging company to create a learning centre complete with Zoom art backgrounds, custom shelving and educational games for a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom Los Angeles home that recently sold for US$13.8 million.

“It’s kind of like a library but for kids,” he says. The rooms are on lower floors in areas that used to be reserved for family entertainment or exercise.

In other luxury listings, clients are forgoing traditional libraries, man caves and multiple offices in favour of dedicated areas for young students, he adds.

Developers are anticipating an uptick in demand for the organised learning areas. In Sudbury, Mass., three newly developed homes will have learning areas off the kitchen when completed later this year, in an effort to appeal to young families.

Another learning space on the second floor is aimed at older children or adults who need a more secluded work area, with built-in seating and an outdoor area. “The design and inspiration was Covid,” he says.

The homes are on sale for about US$3.5 million.

Shahla and Rob Sandoval created a home classroom for their 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. The couple repurposed the playroom at the front of their four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home in Danville, Calif. The Sandoval children take a break. Shahla Sandoval helps her children with their homework.PHOTOS: ULYSSES ORTEGA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In New York’s Chelsea area, Maverick, a building that offers a mix of condo and apartment units, offers a Children’s Imagination Learning Center, with learning workshops and interactive play-based areas, says developer Eran Polack. Condo units in the building, minus the penthouses, range from US$1.4 million to US$6 million. It is set to be completed this fall.

For parents designing study rooms on their own, Naomi Coe, an interior designer of children’s spaces in Irvine, Calif., says it is important to create spaces that adjust to the changing needs of the students.

For example, she recommends opting for good-quality desks and chairs while adding small décor pieces that are easy to swap out as the kids grow and their tastes change. Separate areas for lounging with bean bags or hanging chairs can add a fun factor.

“Flexibility is always going to be the most important,” she says.

Repurposing virtual classrooms can take some unexpected adjustments, says Shahla Sandoval, who, with her husband, Rob Sandoval, turned the playroom at the front of her four-bedroom, 2,800-square-foot home in Danville, Calif., into a learning area last summer. The couple bought the home for US$825,000 in 2011.

With desks at a premium, Ms. Sandoval, who runs a lifestyle blog, built her own against one wall, hung up a white board and put school supplies in a shared utility cart. She tasked her 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son with adding their own plants and creating a gallery wall with their artwork. She spent US$2,000 on the setup.

Having the children share space for study sessions tends to lead to arguments. Ms. Sandoval prefers a staggered approach to who uses the space and when. “My kids couldn’t last side-by-side,” she says.



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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