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Spanish Daily Journal
     February 24, 2020      #50-55 sdj

Returning to new roots: Montessori school

Volviendo a nuevas raíces: la escuela Montessori


The word painted above the doorway of room 308 at the Lincoln Cultural Center has not matched the room’s purpose for quite some time.

But the school’s original library space, formerly the orchestra classroom, will once again house books after a $20,000 renovation that began last November.

Spearheaded by recently retired library media specialist Lynda Cohagan, the renovation creatively upcycled and recycled as much as possible to make the budget stretch, principal Kimberly Starkey said.

This allowed the school to spend half the budget — $10,000 — on new books for the 480 students it currently serves in its Montessori Fine Arts Magnet.

Cohagan designed the library at the center, located at 240 Warren Ave. in Kankakee, as her third and final contribution to the Kankakee School District, following two previous renovations of the Kennedy and King Middle School libraries.

“This was all [Lynda’s] vision,” said Rhonda Love, the school’s library circulation clerk. “Every inch has her touch.”

That includes the recycled shelves from the high school that now line the walls, the upcycled rolling book carts made from shelving units in the former library, and even a couple pillows Cohagan made from a world atlas T-shirt that matches the light fixtures, which were created from old tin globes found around the building.

In with the old came some new touches, too.

A variety of new seating, work tables, flooring and rugs accompany a smart board, kitchenette area and new “Makerspace” activities.

Even with a quarter of the budget coming from grant money that the Momence Packing Co. helped the district secure, Love said it’s shocking how little $10,000 can purchase in books, referencing plans to add to the collection as they can.

At three times the size, the new space is a completely different world than the single classroom-sized library she’s operated down the hall since 2011, Love said. And everything is movable.

“We can transform the space to fit our needs,” principal Starkey said. “We’re excited to use the library as a community gathering space for everything from student book clubs to staff meetings or event receptions.”

Current assistant principal Chuck Hensley, former LCC principal for two years with 34 years spent in the district, said the purpose behind creating the new library space fully aligned with the Montessori philosophy.

“Follow the child and give them what they need,” Hensley said. “Our students needed this. We’re proud of our kids and they deserve the best we can give them.”

Hensley also said the kindergartners through eighth-graders not only benefit from the new library, but also from having Love, a former child advocate attorney, as their librarian.

“She puts in so much time and work because of who she is,” he said. “She understands the importance of having a love of literature and getting books into kids’ hands.”

A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.

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