By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison School District is planning several maintenance projects this summer, including plans to repurpose the libraries in all the elementaries and middle schools.
According to the district’s April staff newsletter, roof repairs will be made to six buildings, a new roof will be put on the storage unit at Middle School Central, the Innovation Center will be cleaned out to create more storage space, and a new fence with a large gate will be installed at Groveport Elementary. The district will also repurpose the libraries to provide more learning and classroom spaces for students and staff.
“Due to increased enrollment, the addition of new programs, and the expansion of some existing programs for next year, some buildings need additional classroom space,” said Groveport Madison Public Relations Officer Mary Guiher. “The principals will look at their spaces and decide what services can be delivered differently to free up some additional classroom and learning spaces for students.”
Guiher said, if a current school library is converted to classroom space, the building principals will decide whether or not to deliver library services on a cart in the schools, but will more likely put the library books directly into the classrooms and create classroom libraries.
“This gives students more access to the books by making those books more readily available on a daily basis,” said Guiher, which she said provides students with daily exposure to an assortment of literature with the hope of building a love for reading.
Groveport Madison Board of Education President Nathan Slonaker said having a room labeled “library” doesn’t teach students to read. He said it takes investments in teachers, curriculum, and technology.
“Our focus will always be on the end result – providing our students with the instruction and resources necessary to be able to read,” said Slonaker. “It’s why we invested heavy in new programs at our last meeting and it’s why we continue to look at different ways of structuring our buildings with the limited space we have available.”
Representatives of the Groveport Madison Local Education Association (teachers union) said they are keeping an eye on the library repurposing.
“The GMLEA is unaware of the library plans for the individual buildings, however we are concerned about guaranteeing that students have access to a wide variety of engaging literature,” said Zac Casperson, GMLEA vice president.
Casperson said there are classroom libraries supplied with paperbacks from the adoption of the latest district reading series.
“Some classrooms also receive books from book fairs held in the buildings,” said Casperson. “Teachers at all levels have always used their own money to purchase items for their classrooms.”
Guiher said 10 library positions were eliminated by district cuts in recent years.
“We currently have para pro positions and all those will remain to help students develop the technology skills they need in order to go on to college or find jobs upon graduation,” said Guiher.
Joy Bock, GMLEA president, said, “The GMLEA is interested in hearing from the district about how students will be given library and media services while not having a licensed media specialist or a media center in each building.”
When asked how repurposing the libraries ties into the district’s efforts to enhance reading and literacy skills, Guiher said, “We will not be eliminating the library materials. Those materials will either be delivered to classrooms or be distributed directly into the classrooms where teachers can set up a classroom library.”
According to Guiher, principals are working on plans to expand the Read 180 intervention program as well as the K-2 reading program to address students’ literacy needs.
“We will also be introducing the new pre-school program with a digital component that will help early learners develop literacy skills necessary for kindergarten readiness,” said Guiher.
Casperson said the GMLEA has not been involved in the adoption of the reading intervention program, “So we cannot speak to its effectiveness.”
The district also has a partnership with the Columbus Metropolitan Library where buildings receive new book deliveries from the library and students can check out these books to read in school and at home, according to Guiher.
“Our partnership with the Columbus Metropolitan Library allows students access to the newest titles,” said Guiher. “The library can provide our teachers with several copies of a book making it possible for a teacher to host a book club or involve students in a themed-reading project.”
Though the libraries at the elementaries and middle schools will be repurposed, plans for possible library space at the new high school are under discussion during the design phase of the project.
“The plans for the new high school are not finalized,” said Guiher. “It’s too early to speculate on what the high school media space will offer students, however, we want to provide a place where students feel comfortable and have access to the materials and technology they need to learn.”
Guiher said district officials believe libraries are important.
“Whether we provide a traditional library space or deliver the services in another way is dependent on our district’s ability to provide adequate classroom spaces for our teachers and students,” said Guiher. “As enrollment continues to increase, we have to become more flexible and creative in how we deliver some of those services.”