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By: Marifer Quevedo, Writer

Students at elementary campuses across the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District will be greeted with transformed learning spaces as they enter their new classrooms for the 2016-2017 school year.

In January, a committee comprised of teachers and administrators from all 17 elementary schools rated and ranked designs from different classroom furniture vendors. The focus was placed on selecting furniture and technology that would optimize the classroom environment by creating spaces for active learning and increased productivity. New desks with angular shapes will allow teachers to quickly and effortlessly assemble different group configurations into pods of various sizes, maximizing student engagement and participation. This type of collaboration is evident in collegiate and professional workspaces.

“The integration of the new, collaborative furniture into my classroom will help foster an environment of creativity,” shared Ruth Garcia, a fourth-grade teacher at Dr. Rodriguez Elementary. “Utilizing the benefits of teamwork, my students will enhance their interpersonal skills. As a digital classroom teacher, I intend to incorporate lessons focusing on relevant technology to make sure my students leave my classroom prepared for the diverse challenges among modern society.”

Each third, fourth, and fifth-grade classroom is receiving 25 new chairs and desks in addition to a 52-inch monitor. Each grade level is also receiving a digital package including 12 iPads, a Mac computer, and an Apple TV. Larger campuses with more than four classrooms in a grade level will receive two digital packages.

“The impact on morale is exhilarating. Everyone’s excited. Teachers, parents, and staff alike,” said Dr. Rodriguez Elementary principal Traci Gonzalez. “The new furniture and technology will facilitate learning by tailoring to the evolving needs of the 21st century learner. The design of the new desks is conducive for group collaboration, optimizing the learning environment. The iPad is what they know. When teachers are able to deliver instruction using the latest technology, all barriers are removed and students have the opportunity to take their learning to the next level.”

The modernization of classroom furniture directly aligns with the district’s strategic plan, “Transforming Learning for Global Achievement,” by creating flexible learning spaces. The goal is to expand technology rich environments that empower students to maximize their learning experiences.

“Our ultimate and primary goal is academic success,” said Administrator of Elementary Education Loranda Romero. “We want students to be able to participate in a rigorous, challenging environment, not just to regurgitate information. We want them to be motivated to analyze, collaborate, and communicate at a much deeper level. The new furniture will give teachers the liberty to transform their classrooms into flexible learning spaces adapted to the specific lesson presented.”

The contagious excitement will undoubtedly be transferred to the thousands of hopeful students walking into transformed learning spaces on August 23. The district has allotted $480,000 per year from the approved tax ratification, and the plan has been accelerated to furnish three grade levels this upcoming school year. The remaining elementary grade levels will be furnished and infused with technology within the next three years.

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