Lakota library/cafeteria: It's up to the principal

The future Resource Center at Lakota Middle School. - Courtesy of Federal Way School District
The future Resource Center at Lakota Middle School.
— image credit: Courtesy of Federal Way School District

Pam Tuggle, principal at Lakota Middle School, said the new school building will have a designated library area.

She's not sure what it will look like or where it will be, but she is committed to having a library. And she will be among the people to decide, school district officials said.

The Federal Way School District, along with members of the Lakota PTA, hosted a meeting Thursday night to address concerns from parents who discovered that the new school building, scheduled to be completed in 2010, would not have a designated library.

Lakota is one of five aging Federal Way schools to be rebuilt with a $149 million construction bond measure that voters passed last year.

Architectural drawings of the new school building do not include a library. Instead, they include a resource center that could be used as a library, a cafeteria or a combination of the two, said Lorne McConachie, a representative from Bassetti Architects, which helped create the new design.

"It's kind of a different thought than a cafeteria or a library or a gym," McConachie said.

Of more than 50 school designs that McConachie has worked on in his career, Lakota will be the first to have no designated library, he said.

"I think this is a new idea," he said.

Cost was part of the reason for the design. Lakota will be built for about $240 per square foot. McConachie noted that his firm is currently working on a middle school in Seattle that will be built for $350 per square foot. The entire cost to rebuild Lakota will be about $34 million.

The new Lakota building will consist of three learning communities. Each community will have a great room, about one-third the size of a traditional cafeteria. Those great rooms could be used as eating areas or library areas to allow for the resource center to be used as a full-time library or cafeteria, depending on how school administration wants to use the space, McConachie said. The great rooms could also have a different purpose entirely and the resource center could serve as a cafeteria part time and a library part time. Eventually, the resource center could be redesigned to allow more administration offices.

The idea is for the design to be flexible and for school staff to ultimately decide how the spaces will be used, McConachie said.

Tuggle said she is considering using the great rooms to serve lunches and allowing the resource center to be a full-time library. But she hasn't committed to that decision yet.

"It's hard for me to decide everything by drawings," Tuggle said.


Tina Garcia, a PTA member at Lakota, said that having a full-time library is important. She noted that during the times she's volunteered at the school, the library has been packed full of students.

"It's kind of a hub of energy in this school and the kids love to be in there," she said.

During a recent tour of the library, assistant librarian Pat Hellwig also said that the library is very well used.

"Every day that they can come in, they come in — sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders," Hellwig said. "This library is used every day."

Teachers sign up to bring their students in to use the library during class time. Small groups use the library for intervention classes and staff also hold meetings in the library, Hellwig said.

"Talk about multi-use, this room," she said. "It's constantly being used."

Up to 90 students use the library at Lakota each day during lunchtime, the only time during the school day when they are allowed free access to the library, said assistant principal Marin Miller. If it's raining, more students opt to spend their lunch time in the library after they have completed their meal in the cafeteria.

Miller and Hellwig both declined to comment on what they thought of the new school design because they said the plans hadn't been finalized yet.


The Federal Way School Board will vote at its next meeting, Oct. 28, on whether to approve the Lakota building design.

"Not the floor plan or anything like that, just the design plan," said school board president Ed Barney.

Barney said he is in favor of the current building design because it is flexible. The board will not be voting on how the spaces will be used or where the library will be, Barney said. That vote will come probably in February.

Barney said he currently has no opinion on where the library should be located in the new Lakota building.

"I'm still open to hear what the principal wants," he said. "She knows what goes on in the school better than I do. She's there every day."


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