Arapahoe High School Unveils New Library and Park

Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado, rebuilds its library and gets a new outdoor commons, after a tragic high school shooting last December.

The front desk area of Arapahoe H.S. library currently in the process of renovation following the Dec. 2013 school shooting. Photo courtesy of Arapahoe High School.

Students of Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colorado, returned to school August 15 to a newly renovated library and outdoor space, Clarity Commons Park, reported the Denver Post. Both spaces provide a chance for students and the community to heal following the tragic shooting that occurred at the school last December. On December 13, 2013, a student, 18-year-old Karl Pierson, brought a gun to school after a disagreement with a teacher and shot 17-year-old student Claire Davis. After police pursuit, Pierson was found in the school library, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot. Claire passed away eight days later at Littleton Adventist Hospital. During the week that the Davis family held vigil by Claire’s side, the family bonded with hospital staff, including Jason Dunkel, the hospital’s director of business development. Following the girl’s death, Dunkel and the family came together, wanting to honor Claire’s memory and help her friends to move on from the tragedy. The idea of an outdoor garden space came about and, according to Dunkel, the Littleton Public Schools (LPS) district felt the space would be a positive step for students and donated almost an acre of land on Arapahoe’s campus for the project. Dunkel tapped into his fundraising resources at Adventist Hospital, involving staff, board members, the hospital’s own foundation, and the surrounding community. In just five months, Dunkel estimates Clarity Commons Park, named after Claire, raised $125,000 in cash donations and nearly $300,000 of in-kind contributions of material and time, which were used to build paved brick walkways, erect walls with garden seating, as well as granite pillars inscribed with inspirational sayings. On August 16, which would have been Claire’s 18th birthday, an unveiling of an inspirational pillar took place at the park with Arapahoe principal Natalie Pramenko and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper present—and members of Claire’s family, according to a CBS local news station. Ultimately, the intention for the space is to be a fun, relaxed environment for the students—and the school will use it as an outdoor classroom as well. While the school’s library is open to students, it is still in the process of renovation. For the library’s design and building process, school administrators gathered one student from each grade to form a team to help redesign the library. Addison Callahan, 18, who graduated last spring, tells the Denver Post that the new library “was the last piece we really needed for students to get back to normal.” Callahan says the library will boast a technology help desk run by the school computer club, power outlets throughout the space (instead of a single computer lab), and three large study rooms to emphasize the collaborative nature of the school and space. Nicole Seavall, another student on the design team, noted to the Littleton Independent that the library is “a place for students to be the Arapahoe Warriors and still be together in this one space.” Seavall handled much of the interior design details of the library, like a memory book signed by all students to be placed in a time capsule, comfortable furniture, a café space, and a large compass to be placed above the central room. Seavall says the compass will be a reminder for students to “keep moving forward and find your direction of learning.” There will be plenty of bookshelves in addition to an e-library, but the shelves will be lower profile along with larger windows so the space feels open and light. The new library, once completed, will cost an estimated $1.1–$1.35 million and will be roughly double the size of the original facility. Donations from construction and engineering firms—and furniture companies—helped reduce the expense. Littleton Public Schools have established the Arapahoe High School Moving Forward Fund to further assist the project. Approximately $800,000 is still required for the project. Any monies raised will go towards the library remodel, book replacement, and facility repairs.

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