Vail Academy and High School (VAHS) Has a Library by Anne Gibson

Staff, students, and community members began 2017 with a ribbon cutting Friday, January 6th, provided by the Greater Vail Area Chamber of Commerce as part of the dedication ceremony for Vail Academy and High School’s first library. The celebration was complete with refreshments provided by Lennar Dream Team. The approximate 34,000 square foot school opened in 2010 and has a current student population of 490 students, said Principal Dennis Barger. “We did not have a library when we opened because of space and cost, but we did not have a computer lab either,” he explained. High school students each were provided a laptop computer. Two years later, middle school students also received their own laptop.

“The library (like most of VAHS) would not be possible if it weren’t for Dennis Barger,” said Michael Fester, the previous Assistant Principal at VAHS and now Assistant Principal at Old Vail Middle School (OVMS). Mr. Fester will assume the position of OVMS Principal with the retirement of OVMS Principal Dr. Laurie Emery. Sixth grade teachers Kelly Johnson and Maribeth Runyon graciously gave up their teacher workspace nestled between their two classrooms for the library, Festers said.

Parent volunteers played a major role in the development of the library. Rachael Rodziewicz was the first of three parent volunteers to commit to the library project a year-and-a-half ago. She was joined a year later by parent volunteer Kristina Knauer. VAHS parents and community members donated over 4,000 books to the project, said Kristina Knauer as she explained that the library was created with no budget or tax monies.

Together, and with other volunteers, they organized the massive amounts of books, sorting them in age appropriate areas to help serve the elementary, middle and high school parts of the school, labeled shelves, alphabetized and sorted the library, said Rachael Rodziewicz. Her interest in developing the library was from seeing a need for additional resources in her two elementary student’s classrooms.

The library will be open on alternating days and after school and in late afternoon hours managed by parent volunteers, she explained. Students will be scheduled to come to the library by grade. Andrada Polytechnic High School Librarian Nancy Webber-Graf and OVMS Librarian Jennifer Daniels provided their expertise. VAHS Site Tech Coordinator, Tom White, worked to put the selected Alexandria Library Software in place. “This was truly an example of how, in Vail, education is a community effort,” said Mike Fester as he spoke about passing the program on to Mario Balderrama who now serves as VAHS Assistant Principal.

VAHS, a Vail Unified School District school, is a charter school located at 7762 E. Science Park Drive at the University of Arizona Tech Park.  In 2010, VAHS won an award for innovative architecture. The following year, it was awarded LEED Gold Certification for its environmental innovations. VAHS was designated an A+ school by the Arizona Educational Foundation in 2014. The classification is good for three years before going through a renewal process.

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