Pekin Community High School students for decades have depended on an antiquated library that has not kept pace with changes in education, but that will all change by the start of school this fall.

District 303 has started the renovation of its library. The carpet in the facility covers asbestos tiles, which is being abated now. The library was part of the original East Campus structure built in 1963 in what is now known as the G-building. It has approximately 10,000-square-feet of space. In its current state it is not well used by students and teachers. The project will be a complete renovation, said Superintendent Danielle Owens.

The total cost for the library and restroom renovations will be $1.1 million, which will come from the operations and maintenance fund. Money in that fund has to be used for O&M projects, said Owens, though it can be loaned to other funds and repaid. The money is part of reserves in that fund.

“I think one of the goals, obviously, is to modernize the space,” said Owens. “We’re going to change the name of it from the library to the Learning Commons so that it really hopefully is an area where students want to go between classes — before and after school — and teachers want to bring classes in here. We want a more welcoming environment for students to be able to collaborate.”

The plans include more meeting spaces for small groups or full classes. There will be two medium size rooms and two large rooms. A removable wall will separate them so that when removed even larger groups can come in. There will be two small work rooms where six or seven students can meet to work on a project. There will also be one-on-one meeting rooms for teachers and students.

Technology will be revamped in the library to align it with 21st century educational trends. The two large group rooms will be outfitted with the technology for distance learning.

“You’re seeing that in more and more institutions,” said Owens. “Let’s say we would want to offer something like Mandarin Chinese, but we don’t have a teacher here.

“Say there’s a teacher in Kansas that teaches Mandarin Chinese, or even if we have professional development or staff training where we don’t have someone on site — we need to video conference in with them and we would have the ability to do that in this room.”

The library will have new restrooms, furniture and book shelves The library restrooms are the last ones on campus to be renovated.

Two standalone computer labs will no longer exist. The district is one year away from all students having Chromebook devices. Chromebook is a laptop used by many school districts.

“What we’re seeing and other schools are seeing is we don’t have the need for standalone computer labs like we used to,” said Owens. “So instead of lab spaces you’re seeing more of these spaces where students can come in, whether they have their device or not, and they can group up. These areas will have huddle tables. There’s a TV on the wall that any of them can plug their devices into and work.”

Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin