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Thanks to young volunteers, school building gets fresh face

June 12, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

heatherk@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - When students and teachers return to Fountain Rock Elementary School in the fall, they may feel they've time warped three decades, thanks to a fresh coat of paint and the work of more than 65 volunteers from St. James Brethren Church on Saturday.

The church chose Fountain Rock, which hadn't been renovated or repainted since it was built in 1970, as the site of its project for a program called 40 Days of Community.

At the top of the wish list compiled by faculty and staff was a more neutral shade for the interior walls, Principal Tim Abe said.

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"We're just trying to update the colors," Abe said. "We have some 1971 decor, if you will, in terms of the yellows and oranges ... We wanted to freshen the place up."

In addition to the painting, the volunteers cleaned, made repairs, pruned trees and trimmed brush behind the school, cleaned up the flower beds out front and repainted a geography map on the playground concrete. They also plan to donate a window shade and a new carpet for a third-grade classroom's reading area.

The Washington County Board of Education provided the paint for the project at a cost of less than $400, Facilities Management Director Rodney Turnbough said. The school did not have an estimate of what it would have cost to hire professional painters, but Turnbough said the bill easily can run up to hundreds of dollars per room.

Adam Lewis, one of the volunteers and co-chairman of Fountain Rock's Citizen Advisory Council, said he was encouraged by the time and effort of the volunteers, but wished the project wasn't as necessary as it was.

"It is ... an example of why older schools, after years of neglect, need money allocated to them for projects," Lewis said. "Our County Commissioners need to fully fund school board requests and be more proactive to the immediate needs older buildings face."

Last month, the Washington County Commissioners rejected a school board request for an additional $2.7 million in next year's capital budget for 15 "emergency" projects. Turnbough said the money would not necessarily have gone to Fountain Rock, but said budget constraints are part of the reason the school has not been renovated.

Fountain Rock is one of a few schools in the county built in the 1960s and '70s with an "open" floor plan, meaning that learning takes place in large, shared spaces.

The school does not have a cafeteria, meaning that students eat in the classrooms while other classes are taught in the same open area, Lewis said.

Turnbough said the school board has considered adding a cafeteria to the school, but building new schools and additions are the first priority for construction funds. However, he said he was pleased that the county had added enough funding to the school system's operating budget to hire a painter next month, possibly allowing other older schools to be repainted without the generosity of volunteers.

In the meantime, the St. James volunteers said earlier in the week that they were happy to help.

"We just wanted everybody to come together as a group and realize that we are helping our community," said Peg Swisher, the church's volunteer coordinator.

"We hope that a more bright environment will make people want to be positive and want to be there," Abe said. "It's little things, sometimes, that make the difference."

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