RICHMOND, Va. — More than 100 volunteers gathered at Clark Springs Elementary Monday to brighten up the playground area with interactive learning activities and games. Organizers said the hope is for Fox Elementary students and staff to enjoy the space when they move into Clark Springs as their temporary learning environment after a fire destroyed the historic school in February.
VCU senior, Faith Anna, was one of several students who joined the effort. As she painted a colorful map of America, she began to master the art of stenciling.
“I say the more the merrier for the paint,” Anna laughed. “I’m trying to dab more than paint because it’s really hard to get into all the little pebbles.”
Clark Springs’ asphalt served as Anna’s canvas. She said she was happy to jump at the opportunity to help children in Richmond.
“They can do a lot of different things like jumping on different states,” Anna said. “I had a map at my elementary school so it’s kind of cool that I get to do it for other kids.”
The vibrant facelift to a once-blighted blacktop was thanks to a partnership between VCU’s education program and Richmond Public Schools.
Stefanie Ramsey with RPS’ physical education department said after hearing about the fire at Fox, she wanted to make sure students and teachers had all the supplies necessary to continue PE. The next step was turning 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 VCU’s School of Education, reached out to get involved and recruited dozens of students to come out to Clark Springs for a “day of service” to bring the asphalt to life.
“I thought it was just a perfect opportunity to create physical activity spaces but then also active learning,” Mueller said.
Volunteers painted everything from hopscotch, to an alphabet tree, to a number chart, to the solar system, to piano keys. Mueller said the goal is for children not to just exercise at the stations but stimulate their minds.
“We’ve got math, we’ve got science, language arts, and social studies,” Mueller said. “When they go back inside, they’re going to be ready to learn.”
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras stopped by to tour the blacktop for himself and expressed gratitude to everyone who came together to help.
“I’m just thrilled. I mean gosh, I want to jump out here,” Kamras said. “Play is important. It’s important for adults, but it’s certainly important for kids, and especially kids who are still processing the events of the fire.”
Kamras also gave an update on when renovations could be complete at Clark Springs and said crews are still aiming to have everything ready by the initial April 19th deadline.
“Things are going well. I just walked the building,” he said. “It’s entirely painted on the inside. The roof is patched, and the exterior doors have been replaced. They’re doing all the electrical and plumbing work and some mold remediation. It’s looking like a whole new building.”
For VCU students who joined the mission, every stroke of a paint roller or brush carried meaning that went deeper than the asphalt’s surface.
“I’m excited to see these kids get out there and have some fun,” said junior, Chris Cates.
As Cates crafted a foursquare court, he wanted to send young kids a valuable message.
“As a community, continue to love each other, use this space to run freely, have fun with each other,” Cates said. “Never take a moment for granted.”
Organizers emphasized they hope the entire Randolph community will utilize the space even after the Fox community moved back into a new building. They also plan to fix up the basketball hoops and tennis courts and install a pickleball court.