Not all libraries are created equal. Cohasset Middle-High School has been feeling for a while that theirs just isn’t up to snuff – not when compared to libraries at neighboring towns’ high schools, such as Marshfield, Duxbury, and Bridgewater.
The Cohasset Education Foundation (CEF) has taken matters into their own hands and has been raising funds to upgrade the library into a modern learning commons. Co-presidents Cindy Matheison and Jen Sayer Ognibene presented the first $100,000 installment to the School Committee this week.
And there will be more where that came from: $150,000 more, once all the fundraising is said and done. The CEF is still about $80,000 to $100,000 shy of its $250,000 goal. The upcoming spelling bee and spring gala will bring in some additional dollars, with future fundraisers also slated at Buttonwood Books and Toys and Chipotle.
The investment is going to “bring our schools up to peers’ levels,” said Matheison, and create flexibility and connectivity in the learning space. “It should be able to be shared by the community at large,” said Matheison.
The School Committee was ecstatic, having just reviewed the budget and reflected on the indispensable contributions made through the years by organizations like the CEF, PSO, ARTS and athletics boosters, Safe Harbor Coalition, and the Special Education Parent Advisory Council.
“Much of our stellar education comes from supports outside of the budget,” Superintendent Louise Demas had remarked not 10 minutes earlier.
“We get a lot of gifts,” added Business Manager John Tuffy, “but not a lot of them are six figures.”
Today, the Middle-High School library is dominated by tall stacks that obstruct sight-lines for librarian Kathy Cerruti, who is supposed to govern both the library and the adjacent computer lab – a difficult task when it’s impossible to see both at the same time.
Despite large windows looking out on a courtyard garden, the library feels dim. Students are technically allowed to go outside, but they don’t know it – and considering the uncomfortable metal furniture on the patio, why would they want to?
The current library is large enough to accommodate large-group learning for an entire class, but using it that way means that individuals and small groups can’t use the space simultaneously, since a class takes up the entire room.
In the new design, imposing stacks will be traded for low bookshelves and wall shelving. The same number of books will be retained, but now they’ll be arranged in a way that feels less claustrophobic and more creative and collaborative.
Workstations will replace tables, providing connectivity through digital ports and encouraging collaborative learning for small groups.
Bright, clean paint colors paired with lime green and turquoise upholstery will give the space a whole new feel, and kids are loving the plans. They’re the ones saying it looks like the Apple store, and coming from the iPhone generation, there’s not much higher praise than that.
Just by optimizing existing elements, the school will be able to create a whole new vibe. Matheison and Sayer said the new learning commons wouldn’t require any construction, just feng shui. Walls and ceilings won’t be touched.
Design firm Stefura Associates has produced a rendering, complete with upholstery and carpeting swatches. These are on display in the library for anyone who wishes to view them.
The student body is not a passive recipient of this gift, but has helped pull its own weight through fundraising efforts at every grade level. This week’s high school dodge ball tournament is donating all proceeds to the learning commons project, and the upcoming spelling bee will also drum up some funds.
“We have to give a big kudos to the students,” said Matheison. “Every student council has found a way to contribute.”