RICHMOND, Va. — More than 100 volunteers gathered Monday at Clark Springs Elementary to brighten up the playground with interactive learning activities and games. Organizers said the hope is that Fox Elementary students and staff will take advantage of the space as they move into Clark Springs as a temporary learning environment after a fire destroyed the historic school. in February.
Senior VCU, Faith Anna, was one of many students who joined in the effort. By painting a colorful map of America, she began to master the art of stencil.
“I say more we are crazy for painting,” laughed Anna. “I try to dab more than paint because it’s really hard to get into all the little pebbles.”
The asphalt of Clark Springs served as Anna’s canvas. She said she was happy to jump at the chance to help the children of Richmond.
“They can do a lot of different things, like jump to different states,” Anna said. “I had a card at my elementary school, so it’s pretty cool that I can do this for other kids.”
The dynamic facelift of a once dilapidated black roof was due to a partnership between VCU’s education program and Richmond Public Schools.
Stefanie Ramsey of RPS’ physical education department said after hearing about the Fox fire she wanted to make sure students and teachers had all the supplies they needed to continue physical education. The next step was to transform Clark Springs into a welcoming space to exercise and learn.
“One of the things we talked about was making it a bright space,” she said.
Misti Mueller, with the VCU School of Education, reached out to get involved and recruited dozens of students to come to Clark Springs for a “day of service” to bring the asphalt to life.
“I thought it was just a perfect opportunity to create spaces for physical activity but also active learning,” Mueller said.
Volunteers painted everything from hopscotch to the alphabet tree, a number board, the solar system and piano keys. Mueller said the goal isn’t just for kids to exercise at the stations, but to stimulate their minds.
“We have math, we have science, language arts, and social studies,” Mueller said. “When they get inside, they’ll be ready to learn.”
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras stopped to tour the tarmac for himself and expressed his gratitude to everyone who came together to help.
“I’m just thrilled. I mean god, I want to jump here,” Kamras said. “The game is important. It’s important for adults, but it’s certainly important for children, and especially children who are still processing the events of the fire.”
Kamras also provided an update on when renovations might be complete at Clark Springs and said crews are still aiming to have everything ready by April 19.and deadline.
“Things are going well. I just walked through the building,” he said. “It’s completely painted inside. The roof is patched and the exterior doors have been replaced. They are doing all the electrical and plumbing and mold remediation work. It looks like a brand new building. “
For the VCU students who joined the mission, every stroke of the paint roller or brush had meaning that went beyond the surface of the asphalt.
“I’m excited to see these kids out and having fun,” junior Chris Cates said.
As Cates crafted a square lot, he wanted to send a valuable message to young children.
“As a community, keep loving each other, use this space to run free, have fun with each other,” Cates said. “Never take a moment for granted.”
Organizers stressed that they hope the entire Randolph community will use the space even after the Fox community returns to a new building. They also plan to repair basketball hoops and tennis courts and install a pickleball court.