Some Barrington High School students returned to school for the first time in 20 days to discover that their traditional classroom had been replaced with a modern space featuring new furniture and a new design that the district hopes will promote better, more collaborative learning.
Principal Steve McWilliams said the new rooms had favorable debuts Monday.
"We got real positive reactions from the students, and teachers are enjoying the new opportunities," McWilliams said.
Each of the three renovated rooms was designed to suit the style of learning for the subject taught in them.
For example, McWilliams said, the new classroom for the World Language department, which is painted bright green, has three distinct areas.
The main space has tables that seat up to eight students and is designed for group interaction.
Along one wall is an individual work area that, for lack of a better term, is generally referred to as the learning "bar," McWilliams said. At the bar, students sit on high chairs along a high rectangular table.
McWilliams described the other area as looking like a diner from the 1950s. It is a series of small booths that he says are for one-on-one interaction either between teacher and student or a small group of students.
The new arrangements are not set in stone.
"We are going to try to see which tables and which setups are most conducive to what use are trying to do in our classroom," McWilliams said.
The room for the English department, painted red, features an almost star-shaped table with wheels on it that allow for easy reconfigurations.
McWilliams said another goal of the redesign is to make the classroom a more inviting place for students. The school is an institution, but that doesn't mean it has to feel like one, he said.
The school will be testing aspects ranging from the way the furniture is arranged to the colors on the walls to see what helps create the best learning environment, McWilliams added.
The Barrington 220 Educational Foundation made a $50,000 donation to held fund the classroom renovations. McWilliams said the contribution covered about 75 percent of the renovation cost.