Holiday-themed room is a place to read and de-stress for students, teachers and staff.
The North Pole is a very long way from Flagler County. Or is it? Old Kings Elementary School students, teachers and staff only have to walk down the hall to visit the North Pole, and they usually bring a book to read.
School media specialist, Kim Weeks started converting an empty classroom into a winter wonderland when her son, Avery, was in kindergarten eight years ago. The initial plan was to create the magical place for quiet-time reading for her kindergarten class, a plan that had no choice but to grow to include the entire school.
“I couldn’t just do it for my class,” Weeks said. “It had to be available for the whole school.”
The room is softly lit and has a rocking chair for guest readers, who have included members of the Flagler School Board and Superintendent Jacob Oliva, a “roaring” fire, and holiday decorations -- lots and lots of winter-themed decorations.
“The first year I sent out letters to parents for donations, and then the teachers began gathering stuff, and it has grown,” Weeks said. “Now it’s, ‘do you want this for the Polar Express?’ Every year it’s different.”
Visitors step out of the brightly lit halls and walk down a black-draped entryway into a winter wonderland. There are no chalkboards, no science books, no countertops, nothing that remotely resembles a classroom.
“It’s a magical holiday place that teachers can reserve, multiple times if they want,” Weeks said. “Some do lessons in the morning and bring their kids back in the afternoon for hot chocolate. Others come in just for the love of reading.”
Parents have done more than donate decorations; they are the ones that put it all together.
“I tell them every year what I am looking for. It takes about a month to prepare, so we start in October,” Weeks said. “It opens right after Thanksgiving and stays open up to the holiday break.”
“It’s worth it when you see the look on the kids’ faces.” Kim Weeks, OKES media specialist
Holidays can take a toll on all ages and Weeks said the staff has also enjoyed the room when a class isn’t using it.
“We have had office staff go in, the custodial and cafeteria staff might go in for lunch, just to get away and escape to a peaceful, magical place,” she said.
On this day, two pajama-clad girls sit cross-legged by the fire place reading. They will be back with the rest of their class later in the afternoon.
“It really promotes reading. As a reading specialist that’s all I can ask for,” Weeks said.