QHS adds open learning center

Kelton Sanderson works on a computer Wednesday at the Quincy High Scool Media Center. The media center was rearranged to allow for a more open space, which will allow students to use laptops at tables. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 10, 2019 7:40 pm Updated: Jun. 10, 2019 7:45 pm

QUINCY -- A new look for the media center at Quincy High School complements a new direction for learning for the 2019-20 school year.

The school's Competency-Based Education initiative provides multiple pathways for students to graduate and succeed, and "we're taking a pretty big first step next year with an open learning center where students can take courses online," QHS Principal Jody Steinke said.

The OLC, in the high school's rearranged media center, gives students a place to take college courses, get help from a teacher, do homework and potentially take another online course at the same time they're taking a class from John Wood Community College or Western Illinois University.

"We have over 100 (students) right now signed up, and I'd guess that number will double or even triple once kids realize the opportunity in front of them," Steinke said. "It's more flexibility in their schedule. It's going to allow them to hopefully take those career-specific electives and AP courses and take advantage of some of the WIU offerings and John Wood offerings."

Plans call for leveraging grant funds to offer "early bird" hours in the OLC from 6:30 to 7:17 a.m. and "extended day" from 2:30 to 3:17 four days a week.

"The open learning center also will be open on Wednesday nights, probably 3 to 6 p.m., but the times are not nailed down yet," Steinke said.

The OLC has about 34 desktop computers available, along with a cart with 36 laptops, and the capability to add a second computer cart. It will be staffed eight hours a day.

Steinke said Marlene Hellhake, previously the Graduation Assistance Program or GAP program coordinator at QHS, will be in the center six hours a day with another staff member there during Hellhake's planning and lunch time to provide eight hours of coverage.

Heather Colombo, the district's library media specialist, said the changes in the media center to create the open learning center will benefit not only students but staff with a space designed to accommodate large groups.

"We moved the circulation area out of the center and put it back in one room. Now everything is open. We moved all the books to the east end of the library. The computers still are in the same place," Colombo said.

"We've got more tables, more soft seating furniture," Colombo said. "Kids can sit at tables. Some tables will be wired with electric and USB ports."

Colombo still hopes to add a large drop-down screen and a ceiling-mounted projector for the space along with additional screens to provide good visibility.

Paired with the OLC is a classroom space turned into a tutoring center with help from a grant from the Quincy Service League.

"We'll have some student-led tutoring throughout the day and also staff members providing English and math help," Steinke said.

The OLC and tutoring center combined provide a way to help a wide range of QHS students, "kids who need extra help, and we're finding ways to make a kid's schedule more flexible and more meaningful to them," Steinke said. "It's starting to come together."