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By Jan Ruiz
Relaxing summer vacation? Not for Fairmount families. This summer has seen a hard-working crew of parents (and sometimes kids) spending every weekend on their hands and knees at the school, ripping out carpets, spreading the floors with glue, and laying down tiles.
"The rugs were really, really old and gross, and they don't smell good and they're ugly," said Elynn Hagelshaw, 10, who's heading into fifth grade at Fairmount after spending five years in classrooms with the old rugs. Elynn had kneepads on and was kneeling in a second-floor classroom with a picture-perfect view of Bernal Hill out the window.
Her mother, Julie Hagelshaw, spent many hours this summer working on the floors so that "some other kids won't have to go through what my kids went through," she said.
After years of complaints to the school district from parents, and notes from doctors about asthma and allergies, the school finally got word "that the district didn't have the means or the money to do it, and that there were other schools even worse off than we were," said Ken Hughes, a father who helped organize the work and lead other parents, less skilled in contractor work, on the project.
Hughes estimates that the volunteer parents saved the school between $40,000 and $50,000 in labor (not to mention the many meals that other parents prepared and served to the crews). The PTA will pay for the 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of tile, which was sold to the school at a reduced price from Peacock Interiors.
Along with the various volunteers who dropped in throughout the summer, there was a crew of dads who were at the school every Thursday and Friday evening and Saturdays: Eddie Williams, Pat Loughran, Ken Hughes, Rob Weisenberger, Mark Burden, and Ricardo Alvarez.
Twelve rooms now have floors of blue tiles--some with patterns of red and yellow tiles, mixed throughout--giving the school a sunnier, cleaner look and a much cleaner smell, too.
"Aside from the obvious health improvement, the primary colors liven up the room," said Ken Jones, a dad and volunteer. "We went from rust carpet to primary-colored tiles."
"It's great all these parents are coming out--it shows we have a real community," said Camilo Francisco, a kindergarten teacher who was laying down tile in different patterns one Friday evening, contemplating a checkerboard pattern for his classroom so that he could play "human checkers" with his students.
"When you opened the door [previously], you would get a whiff of the mold and mildew," said Francisco, who had been working on other classrooms as well as his own. "I can tell the difference--you would open other rooms' doors and you wouldn't get that."
The work done by families this summer will benefit students for many years to come. And when the day does arrive that these tiles are pulled up, there will be one more gift to future generations: hidden messages that students wrote on the bottoms of the tiles..
A back-to-school picnic will be held at Fairmount on Saturday, Sept. 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Families can meet teachers, friends can share stories from the summertime, and everyone can check out the beautiful new classrooms.
Editor's Note: Voice contributor Sue Cattoche will be back in the October issue with news from James Lick and Alvarado schools.
Fairmount Elementary School
65 Chenery Street at Randall
Karling Aguilera-Fort, Principal
Alvarado Elementary School
625 Douglass Street at Alvarado
David Weiner, Principal
James Lick Middle School
1220 Noe Street at 25th Street
Janice Daniels, Principal