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Asking For More From a New McCarver Elementary School Library
Plans are moving forward for the remodel of Tacoma's historic McCarver Elementary School in the Hilltop. But there are some in the school, and in the neighborhood who would like to see a little more.
Plans for the remodel, available on the Tacoma Public Schools website, include seismic upgrades and improvements to the 1924 building, with upgrades to ADA compliance, "acoustic comfort" and technology on the interior.
They also include an open concept library, which according to an article from The News Tribune, is a sticking point for some teachers in the school. The design, which shows the library open to the hallways on both first and second floors of the school, has not adequately considered the needs of students and teachers, they say. They argue that leaving the library open to passing students - and their accompanying noise and distractions - will not support focused learning for students.
The library as shown in current plans, is a part of a vaulted ceiling-ed central open area for the school, which is being called "McCarver Square" (pictured above). McCarver Square includes a stage for performances, updated technology, and work areas for small groups of students. It's meant to be a more modern take on a school library, one which school officials, as quoted in the TNT, are calling the "front porch of the school."
Neighborhood activists rallying to bring a library to the Hilltop community are less concerned about the actual design of the library; they just want it to be open for neighborhood kids to use after school hours during the week. According to the TNT, the Hilltop Library Planning Committee would like the school district and Tacoma Public Library to work together to keep the new McCarver library open for a few hours after school, at least a few days a week to allow kids to do homework, read, work on computers, and check out books for fun.
Since the closure of the MLK Library branch at 19th and Cedar in 2011 due to budget cuts, many in the neighborhood have been lobbying for a way to bring library services back to their part of town. We heard this particularly during the Hilltop subarea planning process and after when neighbors started organizing around the idea of a library. Supporters raise the issues of equity and access. Some point to investments being made to support the so-called Medical Mile and other development, and ask that similar investments be made to bring current residents along with the other progress being made in the neighborhood.
Construction is scheduled to begin on the McCarver remodel this summer, with completion scheduled for September 2016. That may not be enough time for a redesign before ground-breaking, but maybe it's time to find a way to open the library to Hilltop youth to use after school before the doors open in 2016.
If you'd like to get involved, the next meeting of the Hilltop Library Planning Committee is scheduled for this Thursday, April 9, at 10 a.m. at People’s Community Center, 1602 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma.
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