Media Center/Communications Suite now state-of-the-art


Media Center/Communications Suite now state-of-the-art

March 29, 2017

Sometimes the physical changes made in a school building open up possibilities for significant changes in the way learning takes place.

After months of construction behind closed doors, Warwick Valley High School students and teachers were very curious about what the newly renovated Media Center and Communications Suite would look like. And judging by the number of students and teachers who now fill the space each day, the new design is a great success!

The old, traditional library and adjoining communications classrooms were re-imagined by District administrators as a state of the art media center.

Since the official opening of the newly renovated, multi-purpose space in mid-February, the Media Center,with its upgraded facilities and features and comfortable furniture, has become a central gathering space in the school.

Traditional library transformed into a modern media center

The Media Center portion of the renovation project involved transforming the high school’s traditional library into a modern media center, with new technology and flexible spaces for individual and collaborative work, while retaining an extensive book collection.

Several multi-purpose learning areas, with moveable walls and furniture, can easily be reconfigured for different group sizes and uses.

Beyond the sun-filled rotunda is a quiet study area that houses the book collection of over 10,000 volumes, along with large moveable tables and chairs, in a sound-resistant area with glass walls. Dedicated, mounted tablet computers – a modern version of the traditional card catalog – allow users to easily browse the collection.

Flexible spaces for different uses

On one side of the Center are two classroom areas, each with sound-resistant removable walls that can be moved to accommodate larger groups. Each space holds a television and several cables that connect to laptops used by group members, so students and teachers can view each other’s screens for collaborative work.

The renovated computer lab in the main area of the Media Center contains 25 new computers, in addition to those in the existing computer lab across the hall. This area has been re-designed to better facilitate collaboration and large group instruction.

In the presentation area, flexibility is the underlying concept. Depending on the use and audience size, tables on wheels can be moved into a circle or a regular classroom setup, and a movable wall can be adjusted or turned around to use the interactive whiteboard on the other side.

Teachers bring their classes to the Media Center, and students can come during unit lunch or study hall to work individually or with others.

And students enjoy the entry cafe area, where they can grab a snack from one of the vending machines that offer healthy food, socialize and watch the news on a mounted television.

Communications Suite upgraded with professional level technology and facilities

The goal of the redesign of the adjoining Communications Suite for Communications classes was to support a hands-on program to prepare students with practical knowledge, advanced technical skills, and professional level experience in the field of video/audio/television.

The renovation of this area includes new, college level facilities including classroom space; a television studio with large “green screen” to allow insertion of any background after filming; new lighting, sound and video equipment; new computer lab with professional editing software; new control room and digital storage area; and flexible viewing area.

Students will have the opportunity to learn filming, editing and production skills to create talk shows, newscasts, visual media and more in classes taught by Communications teachers, Mr. Pat Dool and Mr. Kirk Thomas.

“Compared to our previous facility, our new communications suite includes cutting edge professional equipment, more aligned with industry standards, notes Mr. Thomas. “As a result, we can provide students with hands-on experiences in ‘real-world’ scenarios. While some schools are catching up to modern technology, we now have a video production lab that rivals that of some colleges. The opportunities for us feel endless!”

Features of the new TV studio area:

  • Supports filming onsite or in the studio
  • New lighting, sound, video and video cameras
  • New computer lab with equipment and software to work on filming through editing
  • Four work areas with two Mac 60 inch monitors
  • New, professional quality control room with monitors
  • New digital storage area network (SAN)
  • A “green screen” on three walls that allows students to insert any desired background during the editing process
  • For editing, dual screens to view a working version and an updated version on side by side monitors
  • Amphitheater seating/viewing area, with a high definition laser projector and 8 foot by 8 foot screen to view working versions

Response to new Media Center/Communications Suite “overwhelmingly positive”

Students and teachers are very enthusiastic about the new Media Center and Communications Suite, with many describing the updated learning center as “awesome.”

Designed to have the feeling of a college student union, the new area has quickly become a popular and central learning space in the high school.

“The new library is a welcoming place on many levels,” says WVHS Librarian Kathleen Turner. “Every period I see students using the collaborative study area to work on projects or ‘study group’ work. And there’s already buzz about the teaching spaces, especially the smaller conference/classroom areas, equipped with interactive Smart boards and flexible soft seating and tables. I can’t wait to see how this new library/media center evolves – it’s an amazing learning space!”

Positive student feedback about the renovated Media Center:

  • “The new space is quieter than the old library, so it’s easier to concentrate.”
  • “The new layout makes it less crowded and more comfortable.”
  • “The lighting is better in the new space.”
  • “It has the feel of a college space, which is cool.”
  • “There are many choices of areas to work in.”
  • “The colors of the walls and furniture are very calming.”
  • “I’m more motivated to study there because it’s so nice.”

Funding of the renovations

The Media Center and Communications Suite technology upgrades were funded by the 2014 New York State Smart Schools Bond Act, created to allow school districts to upgrade their technology, connectivity and security. The physical renovation was a District capital project.

“More than 175 school districts across New York State are moving forward with thoughtful plans to ensure they have the technological tools and infrastructure to help our 21st century learners prepare for successful futures,” said State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “The State Education Department continues to work to help districts prepare plans that will benefit children long after they leave school by providing them with the skills needed in today’s innovative workforce.”

Looking to the future

The district plans to fully utilize the significant upgrades made in the high school’s Communications facilities and equipment, and plans are in the works to offer a Career & Technical Education (CTE) path in Video Communications/Digital Filmmaking & Post Production through Orange-Ulster BOCES.

“With the foundation of a strong high school media program,” says Mr. Thomas, “our students will be motivated to pursue college credit and professional certifications in wide-ranging careers related to digital content creation and video media production.

“Our new facilities will greatly improve digital/media literacy and education. One of our ultimate goals is to help shift students from the passive role of consumers to the active role of producers. With this comes the freedom to create and explore through challenging assignments that provide ‘real-world’ experiences.”

Students and teachers are eager to use the new, upgraded spaces and technology, which allow more opportunities to learn advanced skills in a collaborative setting.

Says WVCSD Superintendent, Dr. David Leach, “The redesigned media center and Communications suite opens new doors for our students to collaborate, and provides them with a way to express 21st century skills.”


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