Brightening Up an Old School
Brightening Up an Old School
Adding color makes Haynes Northwest Academy a fun learning environment
It only took paint – and a little courage – to brighten up an old school.
That’s what Principal Dee Dee Forney and Assistant Principal Cindy Underwood discovered when they set out to improve the look of Haynes Northwest Academy.
Staff members combined a colorful facelift with a special summer training program called “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” to inject new energy into the small school.
Haynes Assistant Principal Cindy Underwood shows off a door painted in colorful chalkboard paint, scrawled with the encouragement, “Be the reason someone smiles today!”
Haynes Northwest Academy sits on the northwest side of Wichita Falls and serves slightly more than 200 children.
Not long ago, the school entry was glassed in to create a vestibule of safety. The school was one of the first to receive a full set of safety cameras installed throughout the school that principals can monitor from Mrs. Forney’s office.
WFISD Maintenance workers painted Haynes’ enormous brick entry wall a bright cobalt blue and hung new lighting fixtures. Parents and students tell Ms. Underwood that they love the new look.
Now the staff wanted to make other changes that they thought would enhance learning.
“We went through many ideas,” said Ms. Underwood. “It always comes down to an expense. Money.”
Meanwhile, at home, Ms. Underwood painted an old coffee table for her living room with a bright shade of chalkboard paint. (Yes, it comes in more shades than just black.) Her 3-year-old son and 10-year-old sister loved working at it.
“Why not paint our classroom doors with chalkboard paint?” she thought.
She envisioned hallways with bright, happy colors, like lime green, hot pink and purple.
Finally. A solution that was not cost prohibitive.
The glassed-in Haynes vestibule has been decorated with a light-up “H,” seating, and metal “greenery.”
“Our Maintenance Department was so polite and hardworking,” she said of the WFISD team who painted more than 40 of the school’s doors over the summer. “They took such pride in their work.”
Having the courage to use such bright hues paid off. Now, Haynes hallways are infused with color, and the doors are the perfect space for a teacher to scrawl an uplifting thought, reminder or encouragement.
“Think like a proton. Be positive,” reads the door to Ms. Renae Dickens’ classroom.
Clever seating arrangements like this one in the hallway are in constant rotation with well-behaved children who earn the right to work independently.
At Ms. Underwood’s request, the Maintenance Department also livened up the Haynes entry by painting the large drab entry brick wall a bright cobalt blue. The maintenance team also dressed it up with new light fixtures.
“Kids go on and on about it,” said Ms. Underwood. “Parents say it’s so inviting now.”
Ms. Underwood and a team of teachers also set up creative hallway seating arrangements throughout the building. Many teachers used their own money to add comfortable seating to their classrooms. Why?
“They want to make learning awesome,” said Ms. Underwood.
The school improvement project was a team effort, said Mrs. Forney.
“So many staff members donated time, personal items and money to make this revitalization of Haynes Northwest Academy possible,” said Mrs. Forney. “Their only interest was in improving the aesthetics and overall look of the inside of a very important building in their lives. Making our new students feel welcome and our returning students a part of something new was the ultimate goal.”
A social contract from the “Capturing Kids Hearts” summer training program hangs on the wall in Principal Dee Dee Forney’s office.
Capturing Kids’ Hearts
During the summer, the entire staff was also trained with a program called, “Capturing Kids’ Hearts,” a team-building program based on founder Flip Flippen’s belief that “If you have a child’s heart, you have a child’s mind.”
The training came with a “social contract” to provide uplifting guidelines for staff and students.
All the changes were orchestrated to capture students’ hearts, said Ms. Underwood.
“Some come from difficult situations in their home lives. We want to make sure this is a safe and happy place,” she said.
And making it bright and cheery didn’t hurt, either.
Students take every opportunity they can find to plop into cushiony seating and work with their favorite technology.