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Hempfield begins library update |

Hempfield begins library update

Matthew Santoni
| Friday, December 9, 2016 11:00 p.m
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Hempfield senior Zak Suchko, talks about the standing desks that the STEM Literacy program hopes to incorporate into a redesign of the library, during STEM Communications class, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Hempfield seniors in the STEM Literacy program explain their redesign of the library, during STEM Communications class, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Hempfield senior Tate Yawitz, points to areas of the library that the STEM Literacy program hopes to redesign to include a maker space, and a collaborative space for students to work on group projects, during STEM Communications class, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016.

Hempfield Area School District is weighing a renovation to its high school library, with most of the work done internally — including its design by a group of students.

The first group of students completing the high school’s three-year Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program saw that their library was underutilized. The school as a whole lacked space for small-group work, and a cart selling coffee in the main hallway caused crowding and congestion.

Their senior STEM Communications class project, pitched to the school board last month and now moving into the implementation phase, redesigned the library to add collaborative spaces, classrooms, more computers and a relocated coffee bar.

A limited budget and the expectation that the high school would be the next building to undergo a comprehensive renovation kept the team’s ambitions for the space limited mostly to relocating or replacing furniture, purchasing new technology and repainting to delineate the different functions of each section of the new library.

“As we started out, we had sky-high expectations,” group president Tate Yawitz said. “We were grounded by our district’s situation.”

They measured, researched and redesigned the space in three-dimensional design programs, courted potential donors — landing an agreement for IKEA to provide some of the new furniture — and presented their plans Nov. 21 to the school board.

The board was receptive enough to the project — and its estimated $17,000 budget — that it tasked the class with pricing specific technology and furniture for the library, developing a timeline for phasing in elements of their redesign and determining how much can be built out by district staff. The students’ timeline was turned over to Business Manager Wayne Wismar this week, said Ashley Contristano, one of the program’s co-teachers.

“These guys and girls are getting to see what it’s like to go through these channels in a business,” said Craig Siniawski, another co-teacher.

The daily class is part of a three-year pilot program, Contristano said. Students apply as sophomores, take a seminar and do job shadowing as juniors and design a solution to address a problem or need within the district as seniors.

The new library would have an area with computers for students who take online classes to work quietly and a “maker space” with equipment like a 3-D printer, a table-sized interactive screen and computer stations with more powerful hardware to run programs that are too demanding for school-issued laptops, said Zak Suchko, part of the project’s engineering team.

Students could reserve another space with small-group tables that could be marked up with erasable markers for collaborative projects, and a coffee cart would be relocated to the library as the centerpiece of a lounge area for relaxing or quiet study. A classroom with an interactive projection system would be available, and all of the library’s existing media would remain on shelves reconfigured to fit around the new spaces.

Space and money limitations led the group to drop plans for a recording and editing booth for audio-visual presentations and small-group rooms with glass dividers, said group vice president Karlee Schneider.

Contristano said next semester’s STEM students would design ways to improve security in collaboration with school police officers.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724 836 6660 or

Categories: Westmoreland
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