Classroom furniture has come a long way since the old metal and wood desks of the past.
By August, Bibb County schools will be outfitted with new pieces that are modern yet functional, and community members have provided feedback to help with the selections.
Soft seating, pieces with curves and angles, desks that fit together for collaboration, tiered tables, chairs and stools that rock, and curved shelves are some of the items that were on display at a vendor show this week. Teachers, staff, administrators and residents stopped by the Professional Learning Center at the Martin-Whitley Educational Complex to check out the options and complete a survey.
The district is using $3 million from the education sales tax initiative to replace furniture in most of its facilities, said Jason Daniel, the Capital Improvement Program executive director for the district. Exceptions are schools that are new or recently renovated — including Veterans, Bernd, Porter, Williams and Carter elementary schools and Hutchings College and Career Academy, said Penny Harvey, the program’s construction contract administrator.
Bibb County has never done a complete furniture overhaul, and most schools haven’t received new pieces since they were built.
“I’m hoping it motivates our children to want to succeed because they’ll have the latest and greatest in front of them,” Harvey said.
Changing technology and curricula are driving the need for updated classroom furniture, said Randall Cottrill, with Georgia Specialty Equipment. With more focus on electronic formats, for example, schools don’t need as many bookshelves and students don’t need as much storage space, Cottrill and Harvey said.
Schools are also looking for more flexibility in their rooms, and companies are putting everything on wheels for easy rearrangement. The modern pieces will create more space in the classrooms and common spaces, Harvey said.
Other districts have hosted furniture exhibits, but this was a first for Bibb County. Schoolteachers and staff know what works in the classroom, and a vendor show was a good way to learn about their needs and get feedback.
Grace Gardner, a speech therapist at Northwoods Academy, was interested in pieces that would meet the sensory needs of special needs students. The vendor exhibit showed that the district wants to know what teachers think, she said.
“I care about our district and wanted to be a part of the process,” she said. “I’ve never been asked for my input” before.”
The pieces that score highest for the elementary, middle and high schools will be bought for facilities across the district, although the schools will be able to choose their own colors. Bids should be in by the end of February, and the new furniture moved in over the summer. The companies will recycle the old furniture.
“I think it’s really awesome that we’re updating and looking at creating a student-friendly environment,” said Amanda Erceg, a fifth-grade teacher at Alexander II Magnet School who visited the exhibit. “It creates a more comfortable classroom setting.”