Kings H.S. to highlight newly renovated Bradford Learning Commons

Kings High School will host an open house/ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newly renovated Bradford Learning Commons on Oct. 10 from 7-8 p.m. The public is invited.

Bradford Learning Commons is located inside Kings High School at 5500 Columbia Road. Parking is available in the North or South parking lots.

We talked to Matt Luecke, director of business affairs at Kings Local School District, to find out more about the project, how teachers and administrators have worked together on creating the new space as well as how the students are embracing it.

Luecke said he was involved with the construction/management side of the project. He worked with the architect and the contractor that completed the renovation of the room. He also helped with aspects such as the design of the space. He said everything is mobile in the space, including the furniture, and everything can be moved around to accommodate many different types of meetings and presentations. There are also glass walls that promote transparency and allow for natural lighting.

“Before, it was more of a media center/library type area. The need was for students to come down and collaborate in small groups and work together on projects. We wanted more of a collaboration space, rather than a quiet, library-type space,” he said.

The district has become very proud of the endeavor and the students seem to really enjoy the new features of Bradford Learning Commons, Luecke said. The renovation process started about a year ago. It included meeting with the architect, coming up with multiple designs, determining the best use of the space, and meeting with designers and furniture companies. The cost of the project was roughly $350,000 and it was funded through the Permanent Improvement Fund. The newly remodeled 7,000-sq. ft. space opened the first day of school.

“We gave the space a facelift, and we are encouraging students and teachers to use the space in any way they can come up with — from breaking students into small groups and collaborating to doing research, and we’ve made it comfortable. The old furniture was hard-surface wood. Now, we have more comfortable and inviting places for students and teachers to engage,” he said.

Q: Previously known as the Bradford Media Center, the space has been newly renovated into the Bradford Learning Commons. Can you give us some of the history of the project and tell why it was necessary?

A: Our district's tagline and vision is Relate. Create. Innovate. We had a media center that was not conducive to our vision, so we wanted to create a space where kids could do this. A team of teachers and administrators researched the needs of our students now and for the future and found they needed spaces where they can collaborate and problem solve in an environment that was comfortable. We also discovered that flexibility and transparency were key to the space, so glass walls were used along with furniture that was comfortable and was conducive to being moved.

The name of the Media Center was named for Morsene H. Bradford in 1996. Mr. Bradford was well-known in the community and was a champion for Kings Schools.

Q: What are some of the features of the new space? Can you give us some of the details?

A: The space features breakout rooms of different sizes. There is a large room that can accommodate a full class of students or for use as a large meeting space. There are also four smaller rooms for small group activities. A Makerspace will be used for our students to experiment with any creative ideas they have.

The entire space was furnished with flexible furniture. To meet the needs of teachers and students, everything is on wheels to easily create a lot of different seating options. The furniture can be easily moved to open up and allow for collaboration and sharing that the previous space had discouraged. The glass walls and natural light really open up the space.

A database of over 3,500 e-books is available for our students, as well as over 4,000 physical titles that still remain in the Learning Commons.

A book inventory was taken of the entire library before the renovation. Several thousand titles hadn’t been checked out in years. Students and staff were given the first opportunity to take books of their choosing. The remaining titles were donated Union Day Therapeutic School and Crayons to Computers.

Q: What was the idea behind the renovation project? What did you/the district hope to accomplish?

A: The remodel was a part of our District Strategic Plan. Libraries and media centers are reinventing themselves as content becomes more accessible online. With this new space, our hope is to motivate learners, promote learning, support collaboration, and adapt to the changing needs of the school community.

With this transition, it has changed how our students are utilizing the library space. Rather than maintaining a quiet location for an individual to study, we have created an environment for collaboration and relationships of students. We offer the breakout rooms for quiet/study areas.

We believe that printed books still play a critical role in supporting learner and we will continue to order new books, but the digital technologies offer additional pathways to learning. Our goal is to encourage participatory learning, which is something our students will use for the rest of their lives.

Q: What are you most pleased about, now that the project is finished?

A: Probably the number one thing is the amount of time people are spending in Bradford Learning Commons. You walk in that room now, during and after school, and there are students in small groups, working on projects, or homework. The amount of use that the space is getting is very exciting.

Q: How will the Bradford Learning Commons benefit students?

A: Our hope is that the Bradford Learning Commons provides a welcoming common space that encourages exploration, creation, and collaboration between students, teachers, and our community.

Q: Can you think of a couple of practical ways the Bradford Learning Center will give students space, resources for personal, social and/or educational development?

A: We believe that we have created a "learning hub" for our teachers and students to collaborate, communicate, and share. Teachers are telling us that the students are so engaged. We recognize that students learn differently. By providing a different atmosphere, it's amazing to see how many students gravitate to the new Learning Commons. It's pretty clear that they love the new space.

Q: What are the details of the ribbon-cutting celebration?

A: The ribbon cutting/open house will begin promptly at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 10 at the entrance of the Learning Commons. A short ribbon cutting ceremony will take place and then we will invite the community to check it out. There will be student-created videos playing on the large screens and we will have refreshments. The whole community is invited to attend.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

A: We have really enjoyed watching our students embrace this new space.

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