L’Ouverture Elementary School upgrades 18 classrooms with innovative furniture solutions that foster greater collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking

GREENVILLE, Wis., May 22, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — School Specialty, Inc. (OTCQB:SCOO) (“School Specialty”, “SSI” or “the Company”), a leading distributor of supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources to the education, healthcare and other marketplaces, is excited to announce today the completion of a major classroom renovation project at L’Ouverture Career Explorations and Technology Magnet School in Wichita, Kansas. As part of a push by the Wichita Public Schools District to create a forward-thinking, more flexible and collaborative learning environment for 21st century education, the L’Ouverture and School Specialty teams worked closely over the last year to outfit a total of 18 classrooms for K-5 with innovative furniture and media technology solutions. 

School Specialty flexible seating solutions
Soft seating, cafe units and rocker stools now populate classrooms.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/eb6ef406-b1c1-4f63-94f8-3857f2b00e2b

For the initial 2016 project, School Specialty and its Projects by Design (PbD) group focused on modeling two classrooms at L’Ouverture (second and fifth grades). This included installing flexible and mobile seating options that could transform the traditional and typically rigid environment into a more modern setting, adaptable to different teaching and learning styles. The versatile furnishings were so well received by faculty and students that the district expanded the project to another sixteen K-5 classrooms, as well as the library in 2017.

Following a federal grant secured by the district’s magnet schools department, a portion was designated for classroom enhancements, with the objective of supporting a “deskless” environment that promoted more student movement for learning and enabling teachers to utilize various instructional methods for greater collaboration, communication, creativity and critical-thinking. At L’Ouverture, they wanted students to have the option to sit where it was most conducive for their learning – and not be restricted by the stationary desk and chair layout typical of a traditional classroom setting. This could only be achieved with the appropriate furniture and equipment.

“Our School Specialty team met with Wichita Public Schools administrators to understand the district’s unique needs and assess the classroom renovation process,” stated Heather Whealy, Territory Sales Manager – Kansas. “In May 2016, we did two model classrooms at L’Ouverture and after these were completed, teachers could see and test the furniture. We then worked for about six months on plans for the other classroom upgrades and were officially retained to help rollout the full project by March 2017. Our SSI/PbD managers collaborated closely with school officials including Stephanie Doshier (Grant and Curriculum Facilitator) and Janelle Roland (Instructional Coach) on furniture selection for each grade, then we created a reference manual which teachers could use to pick specific products for their classrooms. We met with teachers over a number of days to ensure the selection process was an easy and seamless one.”

“We assisted the L’Ouverture team with identifying certain furniture options – type, size, color – that would be most beneficial to their goals and consulted directly with teachers to determine what they hoped to accomplish for their students,” continued Wade Seeley, School Specialty’s Market Development Manager, Furniture and Equipment. “Chiefly, administrators were seeking flexible and mobile furnishings that would give them the ability to shift instructional methods according to learning needs and on a continuous basis. As partners, we were committed to developing more contemporary educational spaces that would benefit both the Wichita Public Schools District and by extension, the surrounding communities it serves.”

Flexible seating can encompass a variety of furniture options. Mobile seating can be configured into a variety of positions to support different teaching approaches, which is a key tenet of 21st century learning. Soft seating allows students to be comfortable, enhancing their enjoyment while at school. And movement seating, which allows students to rock gently in their seats, has been shown to improve attention spans and increase engagement.

School Specialty and Projects by Design provided a combination of solutions from its Classroom Select line, including NeoMove™ and NeoRock™ furniture, as well as products from vendor partners such as Smith System, MiEN and Media Technologies. NeoMove™ and NeoRok™ seating enable students to move gently (forward, backward or side-to-side), promoting a calming effect and encouraging them to concentrate. This is especially beneficial for students with special needs, for whom sitting still can be a challenge and distraction.

“Since outfitting our classroom with the new furniture, it has been a game changer,” stated Candice Ulbrich, fifth grade teacher. “The kids absolutely love the different seating choices; instead of sitting at their desks for several hours, they’re able to move around more and interact with their classmates to share views and ideas. Already I’ve seen notable changes in behavior and attitudes as students come in very excited and eager to learn every day. As their teacher, I’m also able to walk around the classroom more easily and hear all the conversations. It’s just a more comfortable and open environment that can support whatever form of instruction that’s appropriate or whatever learning needs there are for all my students.”

“We must commend the SSI/PbD team for giving us the blueprint to be truly deskless. As a tech-focused school, we had this notion of creating a ‘deskless’ environment that would be flexible and collaborative. Yet, there was a lot that we didn’t know about effectively executing this concept and the SSI team worked closely to see us through the process,” said Stephanie Doshier, Grant and Curriculum Facilitator. “It has been a huge learning experience; we understand the importance of providing a classroom setting where all children can learn and one that can grow with changing requirements. We’re hearing students say how much they love their classrooms and being able to engage more with their peers and teachers comfortably and securely. On the professional development side, the makeover has positively impacted the teaching approach, as our faculty members look more thoughtfully at lesson plans and expand their mindset. We’re proud of the results and excited by the constructive feedback from other local and national school districts that are paying attention to L’Ouverture’s 21st century transformation.”

In related news, L’Ouverture Career Explorations and Technology Magnet School was most recently recognized as a trailblazer in education. Principal Greg Croomes and Teacher Stephanie Doshier were both honored with the National Principal and National Teacher of the Year awards for Region VII, given by Magnet Schools of America. For more information about these honors, please go to https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T5yrlwyUoyI and see Principal Croomes and Teacher Doshier share more about their vision and achievements.

About School Specialty, Inc.
School Specialty is a leading distributor of innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to the education marketplace. The Company designs, develops, and provides educators with the latest and very best school supplies, furniture and both curriculum and supplemental learning resources. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential. Through its SSI Guardian subsidiary, the Company is also committed to school, healthcare and corporate workplace safety by offering the highest quality curriculum, training and safety and security products. Finally, through its SOAR Life Products brand, the Company offers thousands of products that sharpen cognitive skills and build physical and mental strength in fun and creative ways. From childhood through adulthood, they help individuals live life to the fullest – engaged, happy and well.  SOAR Life Products is a customized offering for hospitals, long-term care, therapeutic facilities, home care, surgery centers, day care centers, physician offices, and clinics. For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

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Company Contact:
Andrea Johnson
Director of Marketing – Early Childhood and F&E
Tel: 920-740-2361
Email: andrea.johnson@schoolspecialty.com

Media Contacts:
Glenn Wiener and Dionne Manchester
GW Communications (for School Specialty)
Tel: 212-786-6011 / 212-786-6068
Email: gwiener@GWCco.com / dionne@GWCco.com

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