BAR HARBOR — Expansion of the library at Mount Desert Island High School and renovation of the science laboratories have moved up on the list of priorities for the school’s trustees, who are responsible for buildings and grounds.
The trustees have been talking about the need for those improvements for several years and decided at their June 5 meeting to start the preliminary planning process. They voted to form two advisory committees – one to study the library needs and another for the science labs.
Each committee is to include at least two trustees plus high school staff members, a student and professionals from the community. For the science labs committee, that likely will include scientists from The Jackson Laboratory and the MDI Biological Laboratory.
Along with making the library larger, Principal Matt Haney wants to transform it into a “learning commons,” a multi-function space that incorporates information technology, online learning, student collaboration, project meetings and tutoring.
“Students and teachers no longer need a library simply for access [to information],” according to the website Edutopia. “Instead, they require a place that encourages participatory learning…”
The existing high school library is on the first floor, and there is nothing above it but the roof. A preliminary concept prepared several years ago called for the library to expand upward.
In planning both the library expansion and science labs renovation, Haney said, “The first step is to ask what is it we want these places to do, what we want to accomplish.”
Then, he said, the spaces can be designed to meet those criteria.
Haney said the library and lab projects might not require a huge budget increase because the school’s last debt service payment on a previous construction project is due Nov. 1, 2020. The debt payment for the coming year will be $380,100.
Referring to the debt payments ending next year, Haney said, “That’s why I’ve kind of let the tires spin on this [library and labs] conversation for five years, because I knew we couldn’t really talk about it until now.”
Superintendent Marc Gousse and architect Mike Sealander, who has worked on several of the school’s projects, said it likely would be at least three years before construction could start on the library and labs.