Lynnwood Elementary School’s library will contain classroom space for the 2016-2017 school year, which has parents, teachers and librarians concerned.
However, district officials say the change is temporary and is not “the new normal” for the district.
The problem arose out of a good thing – Lynnwood Elementary is one of a few schools qualified for additional state funding to add teachers for the next school year because of its rate of kids who qualify for free and reduced lunch. That means more classroom space is needed, even though projected enrollment is down for next year.
In the other schools receiving the extra funding, the schools can assign three teachers to two classrooms because there are flex rooms in between sets of two classrooms. This is not the case at the older Lynnwood Elementary.
Lynnwood Elementary’s solution also needs to be temporary, because the school will be relocated to Alderwood Middle School starting in the fall of 2017 while the new Lynnwood Elementary School is being built. The new school is expected to open in fall of 2018.
The funding decision from the state came too late for the district to purchase new portable classrooms, though Superintendent Nick Brossoit said that would not have been an option even if the decision came down sooner.
“Taking $300,000 from the capital projects budget for a one-year solution robs some future school building forever of its additional space,” Brossoit wrote in an email dated May 24.
School administrators worked with district officials to figure out a solution that would work for one year, and decided to move classes into the library. It is not yet decided how many classrooms the library will contain, or if there is any way to keep bookshelves inside the space while it is being used as a classroom.
Library services will be available to Lynnwood Elementary students mostly through a mobile library cart, which concerns other librarians in the district. Several spoke to the School Board at the Edmonds School Board meeting on May 24.
Frances Gregory, librarian at Spruce Elementary, had to use a library cart for about three months while her library was being renovated a few years ago.
“Pushing a several hundred pound cart of books around is grueling work,” she said. ‘I am a fit person and I was exhausted every night.”
She said having a library cart also created some problems with equity and student learning, especially for children who read above or below their grade’s reading level, or who are English language learners, for example.
“I was not adequately able to support the needs of kids who wanted to read in another language. I had to diminish my level of service,” Gregory said. “I am proud to be a member of the library staff at the Edmonsd School District, but I am not proud of this decision.”
Ann Hayes Bell, librarian at Cedar Way Elementary, echoed equity concerns.
Others said the library is more than just a place to check out books.
“We have kids who spend recess in the library because they are new or are bullied,” Marianne Costello, district library information technology coordinator, said.
One teacher, however, shared her optimistic position about the situation.
“We were handed a tough situation,” Debra Comfort, second grade teacher at Lynnwood Elementary, said. “Give us a chance to reconfigure what we are doing. I see the library not as abandoned, but as a new space. We haven’t even decided that access to the library will be cut completely.”
Brossoit said the conversion should only last one year, saying the district “loves and supports” school libraries.
“This isn’t a sign against libraries or a future harbinger of bad things every time we get additional staffing,” he said.
–By Natalie Covate