Prairie Grove District 46 debuts learning center

Project was part of $4M construction plan

Prairie Grove School District 46 debuted its new learning center Sunday.

The plan has been a year in the making and involved a complete overhaul of the elementary school library. The district renovated and expanded the library to include a maker space, a science, technology, engineering and math lab, a common area, a “story stage” and various flexible seating and study area options.

The learning center is located in the elementary school building but will serve students districtwide, said Superintendent John Bute.

“The glass walls are retractable so you can flow between the spaces, you close it off for a classroom, you can use the bigger space,” he said. “We made it more 21st century. More user-friendly and brighter.”

The renovations were part of a $4 million dollar proposal voted on by the District 46 board in February.

The plan included the centralized library, or learning center, in the elementary building along with the re-purposing of the junior high library plus a secured main entry on the elementary school side; and air conditioning to elementary school classrooms and the library.

The space will allow for younger and older students to interact and learn from each other, said Mary O’Leary, the district’s library media specialist.

“We are very excited for all the possibilities and the incredible flexibility of the space,” she said. “STEM can be working and creating projects while my group class is going on here, and another class can be [in the maker space] and another class can be in the commons. It’s quite incredible.”

O’Leary said that there also were plans for the older students to host their own “TED Talk” style presentations and small band concerts on the story stage.

Band student Ethan Trexler, 12, said he was looking forward to participating in those.

“A few of the band students would just play a few songs while students are coming in and checking out books,” he said.

Trexler has been in the district his whole life and said he was excited to see the more modern space at school.

“It’s a lot better,” he said. Trexler said he was most excited about the seating variety.

“Before there was a few tables but no couches or anything,” he said. “It was more sit down at a table.”

Board President Khushali Shah said she was glad to have support behind the project and respected the work former board President Joseph Ricciardi put in to make it happen.

“It takes a village to make a change and with everyone’s collective effort these needed learning space enhancements have happened,” she said. “Many of us had desire to bring these learning spaces to our students however it is with Mr. Ricciardi’s leadership that the board was able to come together to do these renovations.”

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