Resource Center giving old Ingram school new life


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There was something for everyone on a recent Thursday in the Ingram Community Resource Center.

A table of children laughed as they attempted crafts and magic tricks. A fifth-grader got help with her homework from a high school tutor. Mothers gathered to chat, an elementary pupil browsed the bookshelves and pairs of students walked in to use the Internet.

Facilitator Debra Peelor — “Miss Debby” to most visitors — didn't mind the buzz of activity in the former Ingram Elementary School library.

"That's what I like most about it," Ms. Peelor said. "You don't have to be quiet because it's not a library; it's a resource center."

After closing the K-4 school in 2012, Montour School District reopened the newly refurbished library as a resource center for children, adults and community groups in Ingram, Robinson, Kennedy, Thornburg and Pennsbury Village.

Resources include eight desktop computers that can connect to Montour school accounts, wireless Internet, K-4 books for in-house reading, a book exchange for all ages, special events such as story time and Girl Scout activities.

The center, 40 Vancouver Ave., is open from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays year-round.

Participation is free and does not require an appointment. Children in eighth grade or younger must be accompanied by an adult.

Ms. Peelor said she stays flexible to accommodate a crowd whose needs and numbers vary each evening.

“We do a little bit of everything,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure the students are comfortable and have plenty of fun activities.”

Chrissy Heymann of Robinson said she brings her three children — Lydia, 10, Abigail, 9, and Spencer, 6 — to the center for games, movies and books.

"Debby always has interesting things that pique my kids’ interest,” she said. “It is a nice, safe place to hang out and be with some other kids.”

The first visitor of the night, fifth-grader Rebecca Steele, 11, of Ingram, sat with Miss Peelor and learned how to cut a single green sheet of paper so that it made a loop big enough for a person to walk through.

"It's really math, but it feels like magic, doesn't it?" Ms. Peelor said.

Ms. Peelor, of Crafton, said she likes to “sneak in a little education” during fun activities. A longtime educator, she holds degrees in biology and chemistry and a master's degree in business administration.

Later, Rebecca sat with Montour High School senior Sean Koepfinger, 17, of Robinson for help with her math homework.

Sean volunteers as a tutor every Thursday, giving assistance and encouragement to fellow students.

"Anyone who needs help, I just help them," he said.

Rebecca said homework is easier now, thanks to the center.

“When you come, you always get help and everyone will make sure you’re all right with everything and that you know what to do,” she said.

Susan Johnston of Ingram took her daughter, Abigail, 12, a cyber school student, to the center to do online research for a paper on Amelia Earhart.

"It's helpful because she doesn't have all the resources the school has,” Ms. Johnston said. “We just have what we have at home, so this helps out a lot."

Abigail said she likes meeting up with friend Katie Steele, 14, an eighth-grader who enjoys the atmosphere of the former Ingram school building.

“I’ve been here since I was little, so it’s kind of nice to come back in here and just be back in the school,” Katie said. “We were all so sad thinking we’d never be able to come back in here.”

Many of the visitors were Girl Scouts and their troop leaders, who work with Ms. Peelor to hold badge-earning activities in the resource center. The events have covered topics such as music, fingerprinting, jewelry making, entertainment technology and photography.

“I think we are so lucky to have [the resource center] here, I really do,” said Colleen Steele of Ingram, a Girl Scout leader and mother of Rebecca and Katie.

On March 20, about five parents and 11 students visited the center.

A total of 70 people visited in February, assistant to the superintendent Jason Burik said.

Ms. Peelor said she hopes to increase attendance.

“It’s a hidden jewel,” she said. “The more people we have come, the better.”

Some sports and recreation groups rent the gymnasium in the evenings, and police departments in the Char-West Council of Governments have been using the building for training exercises, Mr. Burik said.

In February 2012, the library at the school — an historic landmark built in 1914 — was remodeled and equipped with new books, technology and furniture, thanks to a $100,000 donation from an anonymous graduate.

That summer, the school district closed Ingram, and in October, opened the resource center in the former library. Ingram pupils were sent to either Burkett Elementary or Forest Grove Elementary, both in Robinson.

Eventually, all K-4 students will attend a new elementary school that’s planned for the Clever Road high school campus in Robinson.


Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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