STEAM lab to be built in library location

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Photo by Sasha Kek

The construction for the renovations is starting today, Monday, March 1. “I’m all about student engagement – I talked to the staff a lot about social emotional support, but also that engagement element. Especially in a pandemic when I’ve been in classrooms observing, I feel really bad because sometimes students don’t want to turn their camera on and they’re still engaged, but it’s hard for teachers to tell,” Erin DeLuga, principal, said. “I think outside of a pandemic, I’m really looking forward to seeing how this is all going to work because I came here in the middle of all this, so it’s kind of crazy having your first year as a principal in a pandemic.”

A STEAM lab will be built in the library to serve as an innovative location for business and science classes.

“We’re going to have the new Incubator program and an Incubator lab in there. Robotics and more of our science classes will move in there. That’s going to be downstairs, so those innovative labs will be downstairs. Upstairs will be the new Library Media Center, so we’re going to kind of flip it, and that’s also going to be super innovative,” Erin DeLuga, principal, said. “The whole layout for this is like a Google office that’s really contemporary; this whole space is going to be super contemporary for students. It’s similar to Studio C in a non-pandemic.”

The school plans will start construction today, March 1,  to finish with construction by the 2021-2022 school year in order for students to “[pique] their own interest and [follow their own] pathways,” DeLuga said.

“The learning environment very much plays a role in how a student’s interest is piqued, how a student is engaged; we’re definitely trying to consider student voice and choice, along with some cool designs and aspects,” DeLuga said. “I like and feel inspired when I’m in a place that seems challenging and new. One great example would be the first day you set foot on a college campus: you’re overwhelmed with awe and inspiration. I went to the University of Illinois and I remember feeling that way, and I loved being in spaces where I could study and focus that inspired me, so I am hoping that’s what this brings our student body.”

But there are some concerns with this new change. Jen Schmitz, English teacher, was a student at Lake Zurich and points out although she has seen a lot of changes, this one will be emotional for her.

“I used to spend a lot of time in the library in high school, so it will be really weird to have that space gone, but I think it could be a good thing – they’re making room for new development and new technology,” Schmitz said. “I know there are students who have found somewhere comfortable to go in the library and I’m sure some of them are excited about the changes, but maybe some are nervous that that place is disappearing, so I hope that they still find somewhere like that where they feel comfortable while we’re transitioning.”

Besides the location change, Schmitz is also uncertain about temporarily moving classrooms after Spring Break for construction to start, although “it’ll be nice to not worry about the thin walls in the E-Wing,” Schmitz said.

“I think those of us that are moving classrooms are just a little concerned about making sure that we’re able to move everything and be able to start teaching in the new temporary space without anything getting lost or not having the technology working – all of a sudden teaching in a new classroom can be a little tricky,” Schmitz said. “It will be a lot of getting used to not having everything together, but I know that we’ll come back together when it’s done – English teachers work together a lot, so being apart will be a challenge until we’re in our permanent space.”

Although it may be difficult to accommodate during these temporary shifts, DeLuga believes both English teachers and their students will enjoy using the space in the new library.

In the library, the stacks are going to look different – they’re going to kind of have a circular design and there’s going to be more of a display. We won’t have the traditional stacks that are downstairs in the library like we did in the past because it’s going to all have a very aesthetic and modern approach,” DeLuga said. “There’s going to be some similar spaces that we have in Studio C with the booths and the higher tables, but there’s also going to be the ability to access digital resources, open educational resources, that type of thing, too. There’s also going to be something called the learning stairs, and the learning stairs is a big part of the design. It’s going to connect upstairs and downstairs, but it’s also going to be an area for classes – you can fit two whole classes – to be able to collaborate and for kids to present there; it should be really neat.”

Although part of the reason for these new renovations is for “keeping us competitive with other programs and high schools in the area,” DeLuga said, the most important factor is “revolutionising the student experience.”

“My hope is that we’re really giving students the ability to hook into their own desires,” DeLuga said. “By that I mean, while in high school, they are able to access innovative programs; they’re able to establish a pathway of interest for themselves that would lead to post-secondary readiness, which could be college career in the military; and that in high school, some of these pathway courses I want to be attached to internships, certifications, and things that will give students the advantage after they leave Lake Zurich High School and that Lake Zurich High School is really preparing them for the real world.”