$2 million turns old Kmart into hi-tech learning center

After spending nearly $2 million to turn an old Kmart building into a training center for teachers, the St. Charles Parish public school system is already starting to see an “academic” return on their investment.

On Oct. 18, 100 teachers and administrators traveled to the Professional Learning Center to participate in a workshop on using childrens’ literature to teach reading and writing. On

Nov. 8, 87 more attended a workshop about using literature in math.

That number of teachers could never have met together before the newly renovated, 60,000-square-foot building opened in July.

“The primary advantage of the Professional Learning Center is the flexible space it provides,” Assistant Superintendent Rachel Allemand said. “While the district has excellent auditoriums at the schools, that seating arrangement is not conducive to professional development in which participants must discuss ideas and work together in large and small groups to address topics.”

About half of the Kmart building is devoted to professional training for teachers, staff and administrators. One large room can accommodate 150 people and two smaller rooms can hold close to 50. Each room is equipped with a computer, projection device, screen and document camera.

“This allows consultants to project videos or DVDs, Power Point presentations, and books on large screens for easy viewing,” Allemand said. “The large room also has a portable stage and a sound system with microphones.”

The center was first used for teacher orientation back in July, but will be used for various other meetings and discussions throughout the year.

“The PLC is currently being used for literacy and math professional development for teachers and administrators,” Allemand said. “The PLC has also been used for other professional development such as CPR training and dyslexia workshops.”

The PLC will also be used for other meetings, such as the sharing of school improvement plans.

“Continuous learning by all school employees is necessary to keep abreast of the latest effective practices,” Allemand said. “The PLC provides an excellent facility for adults to continue their learning for the benefit of the children of the district.”

The PLC also has a technology area, which will train teachers in the effective use of new technology for instruction.

“That includes the use of software, hardware such as computers, scanners, printers, digital cameras and GPS devices,” Allemand said.

The St. Charles Parish School Board bought the former Kmart store in St. Charles Plaza for $1 million in 2006. They then spent $950,000 to renovate it by adding new air conditioning, installing a new electrical system and upgrading the sprinkler system.

Besides teacher training, part of the building is used for storing desks and maintenance equipment and another part is used for assembling and programming new computers.


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