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Free State students use shop skills to replace Little Free Library at Pinckney Elementary

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A new Little Free Library will go up this week at Pinckney Elementary thanks to the contributions of Free State High School students and an out-of-state donor.

Students led by Design, Production and Repair teacher Amanda Torbett crafted the replacement — a mini version of Pinckney Elementary itself — after a fire destroyed the school’s little library during the overnight hours of April 28.

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The project came together in a short time frame, said Dena Johnston, executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation, in an email.

“After the story was released online, we had a generous donor reach out from Oregon who read about the library and wanted to join the community efforts in rebuilding the library. His generous donation helped the Foundation provide funding for the FSHS student/class to rebuild the library.”

As soon as FSHS colleague Demetrius Kemp approached her about a collaboration to replace the library, Torbett said her students “hopped right on it.” Kemp, FSHS security guard and community volunteer, works to boost reading engagement for Lawrence youth through several volunteer avenues, including the READ project, which stands for Race Education And Development.

Most of the build was performed by students in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college- and career-readiness program, Torbett said. That curriculum includes a focus on service-learning projects and a life-skills unit on repairing drywall, painting, and using drills and drivers.

“We tried to kind of model it after Pinckney Elementary,” Torbett said. “We did a brick building with the front profile of the school and have some stone column type things coming out with some old lamp posts.”

The builders topped off the book box with a sleek panther, the school’s mascot. When it’s installed later this week, the library likely will sit on a table again – at least temporarily. Concrete could be poured later so the library can be mounted permanently on a post.

Outgoing Pinckney Principal Miah Lugrand thanked the Lawrence community and Lawrence Public Schools in an email. “Pinckney is honored and excited to have our Little Library back.”

The incident is still under investigation and no updates about the fire were available, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Interim Fire Chief Tom Fagan said in an email Monday afternoon.

A panther tops off Pinckney Elementary’s Little Free Library. (Amanda Torbett/Contributed)

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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