Baldwin High School library becomes warm, collaborative space for students |
South Hills

Baldwin High School library becomes warm, collaborative space for students


Nestled in the front corner of the Baldwin High School library, there’s a space where students are invited to grab a book and relax by the fire.

In an area that looks more like a living room or cozy coffee shop than a high school library, students can get comfortable while they learn or hang out and take a break from their busy days.

“Kids will learn when they’re comfortable in spaces,” Baldwin-Whitehall School District Superintendent Randal Lutz said.

The idea to build the fireplace emerged when library media specialist Brigetta Del Re sought to create a more collaborative environment for students.

Del Re saw a two-story fireplace inside the new Montour Elementary School and thought something like it might work in the library.

“We wanted to create an environment that kids might see out in the real world,” she said, adding that today, professionals are working more and more in collaborative spaces and less formal environments such as coffee shops. She wanted to create a similar comfortable space for Baldwin High School students.

Luckily, the district has close ties to someone skilled in fireplace building.

Lutz did most of the work himself.

The superintendent didn’t mind getting his hands dirty to make the school a better place for students.

“I’ve never asked anyone to do something that I would not be willing to do myself,” he said.

Option Supply in Baldwin Borough donated the stone for the project. The district purchased an electric fireplace, maintenance staff helped with the framing and Lutz taught Janeen Peretin, director of information and instructional technology, to do stonework so she could help as well.

Lutz picked up the stones in his truck and brought them to the school. He laid out the stones and pieced the fireplace together.

Lutz estimates he spent about 40 hours working on the project. He came in on evenings and weekends. He often dropped his daughter of for basketball practice and headed to the library for a few hours of manual labor.

The superintendent, who talked about growing up in Baldwin Borough where he worked a part-time jobs at Option Supply and the counter at McGinnis Sisters, said he enjoys this type of work.

He hopes by doing it himself, he’s setting a good example for students who might say, “I can’t do that. I wouldn’t know how to do that.”

Del Re said she plans to partner with the art department to display student’s work on the wall above the stone bench Lutz and team built next to the fireplace.

New seating also is planned for the space surrounding the fireplace, she said.

This is all just one part of the new additions coming to the library.

Nearly all of the walls of the old library classroom will be turned into whiteboards so students can chart out thoughts and theories and revise them as they talk through problems and come up with new ideas.

The room also is getting bean bag-style seating.

On the other side of the library, Studio B opened last year, with a green screen utilizing software proprietary to Penn State. All it takes is the push of one button and students can put themselves in another place on video.

All the changes are turning the high school library into a place to both collaborate and learn in new ways.

“It’s not the library we’re used to walking into and everybody was shushed and you’re not allowed to talk or interact,” Lutz said. “It’s a place of conversation.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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