‘HUGE DIFFERENCE’ Fulks Run Renovation About More Than A Building

The following article by Megan Williams/DN-R is as published in the Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, VA) on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.  (Photo by Daniel Lin / DN-R)

FULKS RUN — Fulks Run Elementary School is the smallest school in Rockingham County in terms of enrollment, with just 167 students. It’s a community school, and as such, an important fixture for the town it’s located in.

But the school can be overlooked, and is finally getting a needed overhaul of its heating and air conditioning, and a renovation of classrooms, office and kitchen space, that will make a huge difference to teachers and therefore students, said Principal Alisa Sims.

“It’s the little things that make a huge difference,” Sims said a number of times while discussing the renovations at Fulks Run, which began just after spring break last year and will conclude before students get back from winter break in January.

Fulks Run Elementary School was built in 1960, and students first attended the school in 1961. Since that time the school has undergone two partial renovations, which included adding classroom and library space to the back of the school, and renovating the entrance as part of the state’s safe schools initiative a few years ago.

However, the main school that has been around for 59 years, and built during a time when learning needs were very different, has not seen any serious work.

The kitchen and cafeteria were the first areas that got an overhaul. For about a month last year the kitchen was moved to a classroom and students had to make due with hot dogs, hamburgers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lunch meat sandwiches.

But now, the kitchen is twice the size that it was with twice as much storage, making cooking for more than 150 people easier on cafeteria staff, Sims said.

Over the summer, five classrooms were renovated, which included adding storage to each classroom, which they were lacking until now.

“People don’t think about storage,” Sims said. “But how are kids supposed to do projects if there is nowhere to store anything?”

Similar renovations were completed last year at Pleasant Valley Elementary School and John Wayland Elementary School. A renovation of John C. Myers Elementary School is underway.

The total cost of the John C. Myers and Fulks Run projects is $17 million.

The next phase of renovations will likely include Broadway High School and Montevideo Middle School.

The renovation at Fulks Run included creating an art space that doesn’t have carpet, and a music classroom where students can store instruments.

“Can you imagine an art room with carpet? There was paint everywhere,” Sims said.

Programs such as the therapeutic day treatment program, and speech and language, have actual classroom space now, and don’t have to use the library. There is now a conference room where Sims can meet with parents and teachers instead of her office.

The school nurse now has space for taking care of students and not just a small classroom.

“These are the unsung heroes,” Sims said. While students might not grasp the extent of how the renovations are improving the learning experience, teachers do. And happy teachers lead to happier students, Sims said.

Current renovations include revamping the side of the school that wasn’t renovated over the summer. That half of the building has been cordoned off to limit the disruption to learning.

Besides additional storage, classroom renovations include installing properly insulated windows that won’t cause classrooms to be boiling during warm months and freezing during cold months, Sims said.

There are going to be additional exterior entrances that will save time when students and teachers are going in and out of the building. There will also be additional parking, which was sorely needed as parents were parking on the grass for schoolwide events.

At the end of the day, the changes at Fulks Run Elementary School may seem small individually, but will make a great deal of difference to teachers as a whole, Sims said.

“I’m very grateful that [the School Board] saw the value in investing in our kids,” she said.

Photo caption: Lantz Construction site supervisor Tommy Goolsby climbs up a ladder as renovations continue at Fulks Run Elementary School on Friday morning.