Students assemble school library makeover project

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Students assemble school library makeover project
VCI library makeover

It began as a fun assignment last October for students in the Grade 10 Business program at Vankleek Collegiate (VCI). Their teacher, Turner Onion, asked them that if they could, what changes would they make to the way the school library is set up and how would they make those changes happen? What began as a hypothetical exercise isoon became a hands-on practical lesson in business planning with the creation of the VCI Library Redesign Committee.

“It happened maybe less than a week after it was suggested,” said Charlie Galero, one of the committee members.

“I always thought of it as a practical project,” said Alisander Schwendemann, committee co-chair.

Why a library do-over?

The committee soon expanded from its core group of Grade 10 Business students to include volunteer additions from other grades, providing their own ideas and expertise to assist with the project and also help with the simple physical tasks that the project would soon demand over the months.

Both Galero and Schwenndemann noted that there was never any doubt in the minds of any of the committee members that this was a project they wanted to do and that they believed needed to be done.

“We think of the library as the heart of the school,” said Galero.

“All the studies we’ve seen all say that a library is the heart of a community,” said Schwendemann.

The project goal is to make the school library a place where students can relax while doing their studies or getting together with friends in between classes.

Building a business plan

The first challenges of the project for the students involved creating a budget and a business plan.

“The budget fluctuated at times from $4000 to $30,000,” said Galero, recalling those early planning sessions. “We didn’t know the scale of the project.”

The committee soon learned how any business venture involves dealing with senior government planning guidelines and regulations. The original supply plan for the project called on using IKEA or Amazon as potential suppliers of furnishings and other materials for the makeover project. The rationale was that these sources would help keep costs low for the project and thus help keep the budget low.

But, Schwendemann noted, the committee learned that the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has policies on supply sources with guidelines that demand guarantees for product quality and also assurances that a supplier can replace a defective item. An official with the School House Furnishings department expressed concern to the committee about whether some or any online suppliers used as sources for library redesign materials would still be operating and able to replace any items if necessary.

The budget plan was modified to use UCDSB-approved suppliers for materials. With added suggestions from other committee members and feedback from the VCI student population at large, the final budget estimate for the project is now about $50,000, including “sweat equity” as committee members and volunteers provide the labour for some parts of the project like the “painting party” planned for later in spring to repaint the library walls.

“Personally, when I look at the library, it seems dull,” said Galero, “and the chairs are also uncomfortable.”

“At first we were just thinking some new chairs, bean bag chairs, and a better pain job,” said Schwendemann, with a smile. “But we got more ambitious with what we wanted to do with the library.”

“We had so many ideas,” said Galero, adding the redesign plan now includes repurposing one small room as a “rental space” that students can reserve for individual study sessions or group work project space.

Investing in the project

While subcommittees of the main group worked on planning, resource inventory, and other project needs, the finance subcommittee focused on raising capital for the project. As for any new business venture, applications for “investment” were presented to the UCDSB, the Education Ministry, and the VCI Parents Council, who also received copies of the project proposal and business plan.

The combined total amount of the investment application was $10,000. While waiting for responses to the applications, the committee focused on other fundraising efforts, like a planned April 11 pancake breakfast and silent auction at the school. During the event, representatives for the school board, ministry, and parents council presented the committed with cheques for $18,000 from the UCDSB, $10,000 from the provincial Entrepreneurial Pilot Projects Fund, and $2000 from the VCI Parents Council.

“It was shocking,” said Galero, noting that the combined total of support funds was three times what the committee had requested.

“It was definitely encouraging,” said Schwendemann.

The $30,000 investment represents three-fifths of the total budget for the project. Proceeds from the pancake fundraiser and other plans the committee has for raising investment capital will ensure the library redesign project is finished well within its budget.

Real-life lessons

During the seven months of the project so far, both Galero and Schwendemann affirm that they and their fellow committee members have learned some very practical lessons about how a business works and also about their own capabilities.

“We’ve learned quite a lot about running a business,” said Galero.

That included dealing with labour issues as some of the students involved in the project formed their own union to deal with some of the “management” students on the committee who they felt were being unrealistic.

“There was even the threat of a strike,” Galero said, smiling.

The labour issues were resolved and one of the students on the committee was designated as the union’s representative for planning issues.

“The coolest thing, in my experience, about this project,” said teacher/sponsor Turner, “and the most challenging is that they ran into and dealt with the natural roadblocks of starting a business. I never led anything. I would assist when they hit a roadblock, but they handled it.”

“The scale of it is amazing,” said Galero, about the project. “This is our first year in high school and we’re redesigning the library.”

Partager cet article