Hazleton Area School District Case Study

Hazleton Area School District Case Study

Hazleton Area School District Partners with School Specialty® for Design and Furnishing of Flexible Learning Spaces

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the days of delivering a “one-size-fits-all” education are long gone. Every child has unique learning needs, and modern learning environments must be flexible and adaptable enough to support these various academic and social-emotional requirements.

“These days, we have to offer many different options to meet the needs of our students,” says Dr. Patrick Patte, Assistant to the Superintendent of Schools for the Hazleton Area School District, a rural public school system in central Pennsylvania.

Hazleton is one of the fastest-growing school districts in the state. A few years ago, the district served 11,500 students. Now, that number tops 13,000.

The kids think these new learning spaces are terrific. The classrooms are bright and inviting. The furniture is very functional and can accommodate many activities. It’s also very durable and can be cleaned easily, which is important when used by children of this age.”

Dr. Patrick Patte

To accommodate this rapid growth, while also giving students many options for their education, Hazleton opened two new academic facilities in fall 2023. The district purchased a former TV studio and renovated the building to serve as a pre-kindergarten and special education space called Hazleton Area Academy. It also leased space in a local mall to house the Hazleton Area Cyber Academy, an online instructional program with space for live testing, esports, and face-to-face meetings.

Designed and furnished with the help of School Specialty®, these unique learning spaces were created with maximum engagement, utility, and flexibility in mind—allowing educators in the district to meet a wide range of student needs.

As school systems discovered during the pandemic, some students thrive in an online environment. The Hazleton Area Cyber Academy gives students the option to receive synchronous or asynchronous instruction online.

To provide a physical location for students, the district leased space in a local shopping mall. “Students can come in for testing, one-on-one help, or for certain in-person activities,” Patte says. “This helps create a sense of community for them. Because it’s located in the mall, the facility is easily accessible through public transportation.”

The space is furnished with tables and stackable chairs that can be moved around easily and set up in flexible configurations that vary depending on the needs at any given time.

There is also an esports room where students can gather to play esports, equipped with individual gaming stations, a large-screen monitor, and flexible seating for spectators. This area can be used to host guest speakers for students as well.

Offices and administration spaces reflect the design and aesthetics of the Cyber Academy.

Hazleton Area Academy

Unlike many Pennsylvania districts, which rely on local Intermediate Units for their special education services, Hazleton provides its own special-ed instruction.

Hazleton Area Academy hosts the district’s Early Intervention special education program for children ages 3 to 5, as well as Aspire, which continues the education of special needs students after high school. These older students learn important life skills in a series of classrooms furnished like the rooms of a house, with a living area, a dining area, and so on.

In addition, the new building houses the district’s Pre-K Counts program, which serves children who are English learners or who qualify for free preschool based on their financial status. For many families, private pre-K programs are not always affordable, and Pre-K Counts ensures those children have the foundation they need to be successful.

The pre-K and Early Intervention classrooms are furnished with movable desks from Classroom Select that fit together in various geometric shapes, so they can be configured to support different group sizes and activities. There are also common learning areas on each floor, equipped with soft, comfortable seating in different styles to give students many choices.

“The kids think these new learning spaces are terrific,” Patte says. “The classrooms are bright and inviting. The furniture is very functional and can accommodate many activities. It’s also very durable and can be cleaned easily, which is important when used by children of this age.”

Young children, especially those who have special learning needs, often need quiet areas where they can calm down and regulate their emotions. A sensory room equipped with objects designed to stimulate children’s senses, such as sensory floor tiles from Abilitations, takes care of these needs.

Additionally, a well-equipped and age-appropriate basement gym with a climbing wall aptly takes care of the need to work off excess energy in a clean and safe setting.

Supporting Many Needs

In designing and furnishing these new learning facilities, the district turned to School Specialty for help. School Specialty designer Susan Thornes listened to the district’s needs and designed spaces that are highly flexible and adaptable for many uses.

“School Specialty was a great help,” Patte says. “They’ve helped us create learning spaces that meet a wide variety of student needs. In today’s ever-changing environment, we need to be able to pivot quickly. With these new facilities, we can easily change the layout in just a few minutes to support many different learning needs.”

Originally published in blog.schoolspecialty.com