WATERLOO — Columbus High School’s library is getting a $130,000 makeover.

Renovations will begin with updating paint, carpet, ceiling tiles, doors, signage and books on the shelves. But the remodeling effort will go further, changing how students use the second-floor space.

Once work is completed, it will be referred to as a media center with a large portion of the room dedicated to a newly created maker space. The area will be outfitted with equipment allowing students to do a wide variety of hands-on activities. A collaborative learning space will be created in an adjacent room accessible from the library.

It will be “a place that students will want to come and utilize,” said Principal Aaron Ferrie. “We’re definitely excited for this. It’s going to be a wonderful transformation.”

The media center will be outfitted with improved seating, tables and other work spaces that are more comfortable and functional than current furniture.

“Really, when we’re done, I think this will be a premier spot for our students to come,” said Ann Schmitz, the school’s technology coordinator.

Cedar Valley Catholic Schools’ Board of Education heard a presentation on the project March 23.

“What they approved was for us to move forward with the fundraising,” said Sarah Smith, the school system’s advancement director. “We’ve started having conversations, but active fundraising will start right after Easter.”

Various grant possibilities are being looked at, particularly for the maker space. Officials also will seek contributions from individuals and donor-advised funds at the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa.

Remodeling would begin after fundraising is wrapped up in May. With work scheduled to be completed before school starts in the fall, a grand opening is planned for Aug. 20.

Smith noted maker spaces are often geared towards people interested in subjects like engineering and robotics, but “much more than that” will be possible under the plan. Equipment such as a 3-D printer, sewing machines, design software, circuit boards, engraving tools, hot glue guns and more will be featured. Electrical upgrades will ensure the media center can handle all the new equipment.

“It will be high-tech and no tech,” said Smith. Students will be encouraged to explore what is possible with the equipment. “So, really, they can create whatever their imagination comes up with.”

The collaborative learning space will be a place for groups of students and classes to work or for parents to meet. Work stations will be equipped with Apple TVs students can mirror to their school-issued iPad computer tablets or other internet-connected devices.

The room was once used to host business classes and a computer lab, “but it’s not overly utiliized now,” said Ferrie.

Plans also include improvements to what’s known as the green screen room across the hall from the library. A green screen students can film in front of and a backdrop for photographs are already set up in the room. A class is designing a larger green screen, which allows for the addition of a backdrop after filming.

The space can be used for filmmaking needs related to student movies, newscasts and other school projects. Columbus has already purchased 40 licenses for iPad computer applications. A planned Photoshop class is one example of uses for the green screen.

Preparations for the renovations are getting underway now. Some of the shelves lining the perimeter of the library had already been emptied of books earlier this week.

“We’re starting to box up all of our books,” said Ferrie. “The books that we’re not keeping are still on the shelves.”

Eighty percent of the current collection is being donated to second-hand shops, he added, with the school holding onto the “newest and most relevant” books.

“The two long walls (of the library) were all nonfiction,” said Smith, books intended for student research. But most of those are now 20 years old. Columbus students do much of their research on the internet using iPads.

That’s not to suggest books won’t still be important in the new media center.

“We’ll be adding to our books, as well,” said Schmitz. Input has been sought from students and staff on what to include. The school hopes to add 150 new books to its collection each year.


Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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