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Franklin Elementary continues its quest for paint upgrade in nationwide contest

By Andy Harris
Ohio.com correspondent

elementary classroom
A Barberton elementary classroom. Kent's Franklin Elementary School has a chance of winning the Colorful Classrooms Contest and earning a fresh coat of paint for the building. (Ashley Wagner/Ohio.com)

KENT: Staff members at Franklin Elementary School are hoping to be awash in 200 gallons of fresh paint soon.

The school is one of five finalists in the Colorful Classrooms Contest, sponsored by Glidden. The company asked schools from across the United States to submit entries explaining why their school was deserving of a paint makeover.

More than 320 schools entered and earlier this month, the field was trimmed down to five finalists. The other four finalists are: Monte Vista Elementary (Lancaster, Calif.), The Orion School (Atlanta, Ga.) Saltillo Elementary (Saltillo, Miss.) and Jefferson Elementary (Gallup, N.M.).

Franklin’s entry came about after four staff members heard about the contest and began brainstorming. Fourth grade teacher Jen Weitzel, physical education teacher Barb Vasbinder, media specialist aide Paula Shay and secretary Patti Wilson gathered their best ideas and approached principal Todd Poole with their pitch.

"They moved forward with it and had me read over it. It had to be short and to the point of why your school was worthy of the makeover," Poole explained.

Students have also gotten excited about the contest, helping get the word out, although Poole admits many of the kindergarteners through fourth graders may be more excited about simply winning the contest than they are about dreaming of the prospect of a new-look school.

"They probably can't even imagine what it would look like to have something other than off-white on the walls and in all of the hallways," Poole said.

Franklin Elementary is currently in third place, less than three percent behind Jefferson Elementary and Saltillo Elementary. A win would mean a paint makeover that Glidden plans to complete in a single weekend, done by a professional paint crew, according to Poole.

Having a new color scheme for the school would dovetail nicely with ideas several teachers at the school have presented to Poole during his five years as principal. The school is associated with the International Center for Leadership in Education and the center recently published an article about color schemes in classrooms and their impact on learning and the classroom environment.

"A number of teachers have come to me about brain research on the effects of bright colors in classrooms and their ability to stimulate brain activity," Poole said.

The ICLE article contained a list of color recommendations for various areas of a school, including the gym, cafeteria, classrooms and hallways. Having rooms repainted and hallways brightened up would be a welcome development in the building, which is the oldest structure in the entire Kent City Schools district that has never undergone any significant renovations.

Poole also attended a conference in Akron last year where a presentation highlighted a school on the East Coast that used brighter colors to improve its classroom atmosphere and he recalled thinking at the time, "I want that as my school."

First built in 1922, Franklin Elementary still stands much the same way it has for 90 years. Davey Elementary is older, but it has been renovated and has a more modern look than Franklin. A new coat of paint may not correct all of the building's structural issues and concerns, but it would be a bright change for Franklin's 240 students and staff members.

The contest ends Friday and Glidden will announce the winner on Monday. If Franklin wins, Poole and his informal committee of four hopes to tie in the district's colors - red and black - with whatever color plan is ultimately chosen for the rest of the school.