CLINTON TWP. — When walking into the art room at Lackawanna Trail High School, it’s a little more open and bright according to art teacher Mary Belle Gilroy.
The school district was awarded a $4,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant to renovate a former photography darkroom into usable art classroom space.
“I wanted to do it for a few years, but it kept getting put on hold because budgets are tight, especially for small, rural school districts,” Gilroy said. “In the past few years, we’ve done roofing and heating renovations, and the room wound up being used as a storage area.”
According to Gilroy, there used to be two high school art teachers and their classrooms were combined into an art suite. The two rooms are still connected, but the other room now houses a computer science class.
Members of the maintenance department removed the dark room door and finished an open archway to the rest of the classroom. The old photo sink was removed and replaced with a deep utility sink and a floor level mop sink. A ventilated exhaust hood was also added so adhesives and fixatives can be sprayed safely.
“When the students are working with printmaking, paint or clay, we used to only have two sinks, now they have access to a third sink which helps,” Gilroy said. “They aren’t tied up waiting and can focus more time on their work.”
According to Business Manager Keith Glynn, there are still a few hundred dollars remaining from the grant and the district is exploring how the additional funds will be spent.
Glynn mentioned a small piece of equipment or art supplies as potential options.
“I’m hoping to get some taller stools to make jewelry workstations and possibly create another elective class,” Gilroy said. “Also, maybe I’ll expand what I do with ceramics by adding more pottery wheels.”
Gilroy averages between 18 to 25 students in her classes and believes the new area will allow for more productivity.
“We have cabinets with storage space, but we also need space to keep in-process work,” she said. “I think having room to move and breathe will alleviate a little bit of stress and craziness.”
There are still some finishing touches to be done, but the work is expected to be completed by December.
Lackawanna Trail’s eighth grade art class was eliminated after a teacher in the elementary center retired and his position was not filled through attrition.
“It’s not usual, other school districts in the area are like that, but for years we had an eighth grade art class and a photography class,” Gilroy said.
The district’s technology teacher, Jon Hickok, currently oversees the digital media and digital photography classes.
An art class is offered, one day per week, at the elementary center as part of a rotation with physical education, library, computers and music.
At the junior high level, students study art for one marking period in seventh grade and take consumer science, technology and career education during the other three marking periods.
During high school, students are offered Art I, Art II, and Honors Art III and IV. Each of the classes meets every day and students earn a full credit toward graduation upon completion of each course.
Lowe’s awards grants to public schools throughout the country each fall and spring. Other parent groups and educators in Northeastern Pennsylvania can apply by visiting toolboxforeducation.com.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.