Monday, July 15, is ‘demo day’ for a very special room at Pembroke Elementary School.
That classroom helps students with disabilities to master independent, daily living skills such as cooking and other household tasks.
“Students are in here at least once a week for cooking, but we want to make it more than that,” according to Pembroke Elementary School Principal Dr. Linda Hayes. “We want to make it more of a center where students are taught skills that will enhance daily living.”
For Pembroke, this is important since students with various disabilities attend the school from across the city for special education programming. Teachers have access to this classroom to conduct lessons on daily living skills in real-life context.
While the idea for renovating the room has been a dream for many years, in December the school pulled together a team to see if cosmetic changes could be made.
“We were thinking of things such as new paint and maybe a refrigerator,” according to Hayes, since years of wear had taken their toll on the partially-functioning kitchen.
“It was usable, but not always practical,” Hayes added.
Rachel Curry, the school’s new compliance support teacher, was one of the people in that December meeting and she had experience at her previous school bringing in community members to help make school improvements. She also had connections, one of them a childhood friend, David Collier, who now is president of First Atlantic Restoration, which has a foundation that conducts numerous charitable projects.
“Their charity has done a lot of work for disabled veterans and I was sure they’d love to help,” Curry stated.
She was right.
First Atlantic was immediately on board and so was Home Depot.
“The team from our offices of Maintenance Services and Facilities Services also didn’t hesitate. They immediately sent teams of people to make this project happen,” Hayes added. In addition to leading the project and ensuring that safety and school construction standards are met, those offices are providing trades experts, design expertise and construction services. The Give First foundation and Home Depot are providing similar services in addition to volunteers and materials.
Michael Wilson, maintenance supervisor assigned to be the point person on the project, also had a very special reason to make sure this room was the best it could be.
“My son attended this program and was bused in from another district because of the awesome services that this school provides,” he said. “Little things mean so much to a child with disabilities. For that child to be able to go to his parent and say ‘mommy, I made the bed’ makes him happy.”
When finished, the now partially-functioning kitchen with outdated cabinets and stove will resemble a fully-functional studio with rooms that are American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. The kitchen will feature new cabinets, flooring, ceiling tiles, countertops, appliances and LED lights to make the space brighter. In addition, the bedroom, living room and laundry areas will enable children to practice such skills as washing, folding, and storing clothes or making a bed.
Hayes added that the makeover is adding one intangible piece.
“It’s going to put value. We are showing that we value our children and the work that our teachers do in the classroom. That’s the key here. We are providing the resources and functional skills that make their lives rich.”
The estimated $100,000 project is scheduled to be completed Aug. 15.