AUSTIN (KXAN) – Ninety classes across Eanes ISD will receive new furniture this upcoming school year.
On Tuesday, Feb. 27, the board of trustees approved $1.3 million to outfit classrooms across the district with “flexible furniture.”
This is part of a $52.5 million Eanes ISD bond package focused on addressing capital improvements, school bus replacements, technology improvements and returning land to campuses by moving district functions into a District Operations Center. Within that bond package, a line item of $2 million was set aside to replace and update furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Part of the $2 million was used by the district for a pilot program focused on the idea of incorporating “flexible furniture” and replacing traditional desks. In the fall of 2016, classrooms in a few schools across the district, primarily in Westlake High School, received 21st Century Flexible Furniture.
“A classroom is not a one size fits all environment,” said Eanes ISD deputy superintendent Dr. Jeff Arnett. “You can’t expect all students to sit comfortably in the same type of chair or desk so now these classrooms will have flexible furniture.”
Arnett says flexible furniture is the way of the future.
“We want to be innovative and we want to create and be flexible,” he said. “We know that we are teaching for the future and students even today are learning in a much more digital environment and so we need to have furniture that caters to their learning needs.”
Arnett says “there’s a variety of types of seating and desks that will be available to students,” all of which are meant to help students succeed and encourage participation by having teachers reconfigure their classrooms to best meet their lesson plans.
Longtime English teacher Lee Carnes is one of the few teachers who had the opportunity to be a part of the two-year pilot program at Westlake High and says she’s gotten creative with the furniture.
“I was teaching Hamlet,” she said. “We came to the last scene and we were reading it and listening to it, but it’s so active that I wanted students to participate a little bit more so as they walked in I had different groupings already set up that mimicked what was going on in the play.”
Carnes says she’s noticed her students are enjoying the furniture and being a teacher for two decades she believes the new flexible pieces will make teaching and learning for students more interactive.
“My goal has been the more collaborative and the more classroom building community, which has really occurred well,” she said.
Student Ty Bock says he was excited when he remembers seeing the new furniture in Spanish class two years ago and says it’s been a welcoming change.
“I have a lot of energy,” said Bock. “Usually just like in my body and tension and the chairs have some give to them, so I kind of tend to rock back-and-forth and it helps me focus.”
This is Phase 1 for the district and the classrooms that will be outfitted with the new furniture vary from third-grade through 12th grade across the district, but Arnett says the goal is to incorporate flexible furniture in every classroom.
The Forest Trail Booster Club will be funding an elementary classroom bringing the total number of classrooms with “flexible furniture” to 91 for Phase 1.
Breaking down Phase 1, 30 elementary classrooms, 15 West Ridge Middle School, 15 Hill Country Middle School and 30 additional Westlake High School classrooms will have flexible furniture fall of 2019.
The district will be left with a little more than $80,000 which will serve the district as a contingency balance for removal of old furniture, future repairs and replacement parts.
After Phase 1 is complete 31 percent or 120 of the district’s classrooms will have flexible furniture. The remaining 69 percent or 264 classrooms will continue to use traditional desks. There’s a total of 384 classrooms in the district.
Arnett says they will look for more funding to complete their goal in future bond proposals.