When Rivermont Elementary Principal Nikki Bailey announced her plans to petition members of the community for support and assistance in renovating the school, she didn't anticipate the wave of help the school was about to receive.
"I didn't expect any more than assistance for the 10 classrooms we identified as being a priority," she said, referencing her plea for assistance in June. "It's all been a bit overwhelming, to be honest."
Bailey and dozens of others put in long hours of work over the last few weeks, culminating in a blitz that started July 24. Volunteers got to work early in the morning and left late at night, with hours of painting, carpet stripping and light construction in between.
Among Rivermont's volunteers were local small-business owners, church groups, Rivermont staff and their families, even former teachers and students.
In celebration of the more than 20 local businesses and 100-plus residents who signed up to participate in Rivermont Elementary’s Summer Renovation Blitz, a community celebration is being held at the school Monday, Aug. 7 at 5:30 p.m. to highlight the new facility and the volunteers’ efforts.
Tiffany Anich, of North Shore interior design shop Southerly Abode, was inspired to adopt a classroom after she heard about the dire needs at the school during her first-ever North Shore Chamber of Commerce meeting. Anich partnered with Sam Young of Green's Eco-Build and Design for the classroom improvement.
The classroom Anich selected had been used as a storage room for several years.
"It was staggering the amount of work that needed to be done," she said. "We've sprayed the ceiling and cleaned the pipes, and we'll be replacing all the lights in the room later this week."
That classroom will be helmed by Barbara Crosslin, an 11-year educator who will be starting her first year at Rivermont, where she will teach second grade.
Crosslin taught alongside Bailey at Lookout Valley Elementary several years ago, and told Bailey that if she ever became a principal to give her a call and she would come and work for her. When Crosslin was hired on, though, Bailey cautioned her to wait before coming in and looking at her classroom.
"I came in anyway and saw the room. When I left, I cried on the way home," Crosslin said. "Nikki promised me that they'd have volunteers in later in the summer who would make a difference — and they have."
Making a difference simply meant new paint on the walls, Crosslin thought. She had no idea the room would undergo a total transformation. New LED lighting and hanging lanterns have been donated, allowing the classroom to abandon the dated fluorescent tube lighting. A 55-inch television that will be wirelessly connected to the students' tablets has also been donated, as have new seating options.
Anich and her colleagues haven't just painted the walls, either; they've taken to giving every piece of salvageable furniture a fresh coat and a new look to suit Crosslin's desires for her classroom.
"This is my teaching Cinderella moment. I feel like my fairy godmother has walked into my classroom and just waved her magic wand," Crosslin said.
The level of work going into Crosslin's classroom is happening in nearly every room in the school, totaling hundreds of work hours and thousands of dollars in materials donated.
Bailey said all of the school's 30 classrooms have been adopted, as have the cafeteria and the nurse's office. For example, the carpeting, layers of which had been laid on top of one another over the years, has all been removed courtesy of the Chattanooga Lookouts, Anich said.
"The turnout for the school in general — I'm completely blown away," said Anich. "It really shows the community cares."
Some projects will linger into the school year, though. Bailey said the bathroom renovations will be finished by Hamilton County during the school's winter break. New windows have been donated for every classroom as well, and the installations will happen over fall or winter break. Finally, the mural planned for the outside of the school will have student involvement, so Bailey is holding off on finishing it until the students can contribute.
"The classrooms are starting to look like classrooms again," Bailey said. "It's all coming together better than we ever could have imagined."
Email Shane Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.