Aside from the installation of three sets of doors, renovations to the library at Burnley-Moran Elementary are mostly done, and students got a chance to walk through the new space late last week.
The city of Charlottesville has worked since 2017 to update each of the six elementary schools in the division via smaller modernization projects, initially costing $1 million apiece. That amount was bumped up to $1.25 million in 2020 to account for rising construction costs.
Burnley-Moran is the third city school to be renovated and the first project to focus on a space that all students would use. Projects at Clark and Jackson-Via elementaries updated fourth-grade classrooms and adjacent grade-level common areas.
A team of school staff members helped to decide how to spend the $1.25 million at Burnley-Moran.
“The general consensus was that whatever we put into modernization, we wanted it be something that all Burnley-Moran Bobcats could experience,” Principal Elizabeth Korab said last week.
Classrooms throughout the school received new furniture and smartboards.
Charlottesville-based VMDO Architects designed the upgrades and worked with staff members and students to understand what was needed. Students who are currently sixth-graders at Walker Upper Elementary School had a chance to sample different furniture options.
All of the final touches should be done by the end of the calendar year, officials said.
Planning for the Burnley-Moran project started in fall 2019, but Korab said those discussions were paused because of the pandemic.
“The space has been a long time in the making,” she said. “We are really excited to share it with our entire school community and really have it be a hub of the building and our school culture.”
As part of the project, the school’s library was expanded, and then split into two rooms — one of which is a dedicated iSTEM lab. The overall space was upgraded with better lighting and windows, among other improvements.
Christina Tiffany, the school’s librarian, said she’s excited to share the space with students, including a new storytelling area that will have an interactive whiteboard. She finished unpacking last week.
The expansion also provides more space for teachers and students to collaborate and to highlight the library’s collection of books. Elementary students will primarily read print books.
“We’ve really built a culture of reading at Burnley Moran, and we want to highlight that with our students so all of our students can see themselves as readers,” Tiffany said.
Under the desk where students will check out materials are shelves where Tiffany can display different books, almost like a bookshop.
Doors that haven’t been installed yet eventually will separate the library area from the iSTEM lab.
The division’s elementary iSTEM program is aimed at introducing students to technology and engineering and integrating those concepts into other academic subjects such as history and English.
“We really wanted on the iSTEM side of things a space where the teacher can dream big and kids can be doing a ton of different things,” Korab said.
Historically, Korab said, an iSTEM teacher split their time between Burnley-Moran and another school, but this year, one teacher was assigned just to the school.
“Now that I’m in one building, I get to see every kid a lot more than I used to, and we’re doing even more than we’ve ever been able to do before,” said Teresa Amasia, the school’s iSTEM teacher.
Amasia has been working with students in the lab since classes started Aug. 25.
“They are awestruck when they walk in,” she said of the students’ reaction. “It is such a big, beautiful, bright space with everything they could ever need to solve the problems that I’m presenting to them, from the littlest tiny little kindergarteners to our fourth-graders.”
Amasia is particularly excited about the lab’s kitchen. Students also can store materials and projects in-progress in the room.
“I never knew that I wanted a kitchen in my classroom until I got the kitchen in my classroom,” she said. “I am so excited to teach the science of cooking, which is an incredible thing that I’ve only ever learned from watching television.”