The ribbon was cut Aug. 21 on Amherst Junior High School’s new creative learning center, a $425,000 project that closely mirrors Steele High School’s two-year-old media facility.
Construction was completed in roughly 10 weeks. District superintendent Steven Sayers thanked the Amherst Schools Educational Foundation and AJHS parent-teacher organization for respective $120,000 and $12,000 donations toward the expense.
“It’s just overwhelming to think about what it takes for a project like this to become a reality,” he told a group of parents and school officials in the AJHS lobby. “It’s something that, quite frankly, as a school district we can’t do on our own. We need partners and folks who share our vision. It’s just great to have such a strong team and partnership here.”
Four “collaboration spaces” for students feature high-definition screens and are separated by glass walls.
A “mediascape lounge” includes a couch that stretches around a center table, computer outlets, and a large screen that can display what students are working on.
School board members held a brief meeting in one of the center’s new rooms, “the idea foundry,” before the unveiling. That space features an interactive smartboard as well as a dry-erase board that covers an entire wall.
“The key here is creativity and flexible spaces,” Sayers said. “Those are things you’ll also see in the new elementary school when it opens: flexible spacing, seating, and just giving students the opportunity to be creative. We know that’s what it takes to be effective citizens and to function in the 21st century.”
Like Steele’s creative learning center, physical books have been done away with.
However, books will still be present at the new Powers Elementary School when it opens a year from now, Sayers said.
“Schools have to adapt and change to the world that’s out there,” he said. “This is education in the 21st century. When we did the high school’s creative learning center, we actually had more use among students in its first semester than the previous 10 years combined. Students are accessing books and learning materials in new and different ways. We’ll still have books in our new elementary school because we feel that’s still very important for the primary age level.”
Second-year AHJS principal Andrew Gibson said space that remains empty in the center will eventually be used for video production as well as equipment like 3D printers and wood cutting machines.
“We hope to also get into some robotics,” he said. “Kids can do so much more than we think they can and they’re sometimes held back by the limitations we put on them. We want to create an environment where they’re not afraid to test themselves and try new things. We’re hoping to get some of this space filled out later this year and be full-go by the time school starts next year.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.