BRADENTON — The timing couldn’t have been better.
The library at Richard Milburn Academy is open for business and just in time for National Charter Schools Week, when charter schools across the country participate in community service projects and are encouraged to start new initiatives.
A year ago, teachers at Richard Milburn decided to transform their lounge into a library as part of a new initiative at the school on 17th Avenue West in Bradenton.
This year, the library is up and running.
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“It’s definitely come full circle,” said Principal Krista Morton.
Thousands of books Friday lined dozens of wooden shelves inside the classroom-sized room.
Senior Zach Drew sat at a small table reading the book “No Way Out.
“I like it because it’s a quiet place to read and study,” said Drew, 18, who was working as a teacher’s aide.
Because he wasn’t tutoring anyone that period, he used his free time to read.
And that is exactly what staff members at the school hoped would happen.
“One of our main goals with the transformation was improving student interest in reading,” Morton said.
The creation of the library was a group effort from staff, student, parents and the community, Morton said.
Teachers donated hundreds of books, and students hosted a book drive to fill the shelves.
The school also won a $250 cash award last year during a Richard Milburn National Charter School Week initiative competition among its 14 sister schools nationwide, including five in Florida and nine in Texas.
Those winnings were used to buy even more books, Morton said.
“What I’m so proud of is the kids because they have really taken ownership of it,” said Mary Cropsey, a teacher at the school that serves close to 200 students. “They’ve categorically sorted the books and will soon begin to bar code them so they can be checked out electronically.”
Also as part of National Charter School Week, on Thursday, students donated blood as part of a community service project.
In all, the school had 17 good donors, a school office worker said Friday.
Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that operate autonomously from local school districts. They are governed privately and must demonstrate success or they will lose their charter. Charter schools can be managed by municipalities, private companies or individuals.
“A lot of people don’t know what charter schools are, so this is what the week is really about,” Cropsey said. “We serve those children who don’t always have success in a traditional school setting. Our ultimate goal is to build a high quality education.”