Brand new schools are beautiful. They’re light and bright; they’re full of possibility.
You can smell the new carpeting and floor wax, touch the bright and shiny surfaces, stand inside the gleaming new gym, and sense the school pride and excitement.
In Virginia, the cost of building an elementary school in 2013 averaged $256 per square foot. In Washington state, the average cost of new construction was $275.95 (exhibit C).
Many people will never attend or teach at a brand new school. That’s why SportsGraphics decided to share ideas for improving the look and feel of your current school building. We have been making wall padding for schools across the nation and we always hear how our wall pads make the school brand new. Since we are in the business of making schools look brand new, we thought we would share our expertise on other ways besides wall paddingthat turn your school into a brand new campus without the expensive construction costs.
In the absence of construction dollars or renovation funds, many districts are using creative approaches to renovate and retrofit school buildings without spending taxpayer dollars.
Students, parent and neighborhood volunteers, and teachers—all who share the right can-do attitude and willingness to work—can help transform any school from drab to fab.
At SportsGraphics, we’re always pleased when customers tell us that our wall pads and graphics make their school look and feel new.
We hope you enjoy the dozens of ideas we’ve prepared for our Ultimate School Makeover Guide. We’ve scoured the web, talked to teachers and principals, and brainstormed ideas you can use to improve your school on a budget. With a little imagination and some volunteer elbow grease, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
One great place to start your makeover process is outside the building. Does your school have any unused green space? If so, find a teacher or ask some parent volunteers to plan a school vegetable garden. Then get the students involved.
"When we started our garden program, garden time quickly became the most anticipated 45 minutes of the week," says Clair Frost, a teacher in Camino, California, as quoted in The National Gardening Association.
School gardens teach students about science and nutrition and beautify the school grounds. And after their “crops” grow, students can either take home the healthy food or donate their vegetable to the homeless.
“Our school was fortunate to receive a grant from the local Hy-Vee grocery store to help us build and maintain a vegetable garden during our summer
Flower gardens are another way to beautify school grounds on a budget. As with vegetable gardens, students will learn about different plants and flowers and take pride when their seeds bloom. Elementary students can begin with small butterfly gardens.
Some middle school and high school students—with help from carpentry and woodworking teachers—may be able to build raised wooden platforms or design rock walkways to create more elaborate garden designs, like the one pictured to the right in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
But don’t stop at gardening; branch out. Planting a free tree (or two) on your campus is an amazing way to improve the look of your school and make a lasting difference in our ecosystem. In a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation, the Project Plant It! Is one program that teaches students about the importance of trees and how to care for them. On the left, Richmond, Virginia students plant a tree through Project Plant It!
The National Wildlife Federation offers a Trees for Wildlife program that teaches students how to plant and take care of trees. On the west coast, Million Trees LA provides free trees throughout Los Angeles. Check with your city officials or state forestry department about free trees in your location.
Now that you have shade, cleaning and freshening your parking lot is another space that can make a big impact for very little money. While asphalt and repaving can be expensive, anyone can grab a paintbrush and paint the curbs and parking spaces.
Hawaii has a unique program for sprucing up its public schools. Since 2001, the 3 R’s—repair, remodel, and repair our schools—initiative has worked with the Department of Education and other community stakeholders to beautify Hawaii’s public schools. Though they receive funding through a check off on their state tax form, you can tap into the power of volunteers for sweat equity—and the generosity of local business owners for paint supply donations—to do the same work at your school.
Once you’ve painted the parking lot stripes, do you have any paint remaining? What about re-painting the school flagpole or the benches or the school mailbox or the fences? Paint can make anything look fresh and new.
Don’t overlook even the smallest features. Trashcans can either be ugly or they can show school spirit and pride. Trick out your trash cans by painting them, decorating them, or adding to them.
Get students involved by hosting a trashcan decorating contest. Why stop outside? Have students decorate the waste bins inside the building too. We all need trash cans; why not make them fun and whimsical like these cans below painted by elementary students in Kentucky?
While you’re still outside, look up. What’s the condition of your school roof? Could some simple repairs help it last another season or two? Could you apply for solar programs or rebates? What if you could do one thing to make your roof more fuel-efficient? What’s the trick? Paint. Simply by painting your roof white, you can reduce your school energy bills by up to 40%. It’s called geoengineering and it really works.
Now that you’ve freshened up the exterior of the school, it’s time to work your way inside and begin creative interior renovation projects.
When you enter a school building, what’s the first thing you notice? For many people, it’s the walls and the gym. If what you see is old and dull paint, you might wonder about school spirit and morale. But, if instead, you see fresh paint, custom wall padding with the school mascot, and student artwork and awards—no matter how old the building—you probably get a much different first impression.
Just as you did in the parking lot, grab some paint and start painting. The brighter and glossier the color, the brighter the mood you’ll create. Now visitors will feel welcome when they enter your school.
“Our school spruced up the hallways and classrooms over the summer with fresh paint. The labor was all donated by parent volunteers,” said Connie Powell, a teacher from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The minimal cost of the paint makes the walls look a thousand percent better, and it is always great to start a new school year with freshly painted walls!”
But why stop at just one color? You can paint a rainbow of colors throughout your school like this Parisian kindergarten did.
“My school has allowed National Honor Society students to paint murals to brighten up the school. It counted toward their service hours,” said Susan Slagle-Boyd, a teacher in Storm Lake, Iowa.
Student artwork is always an appealing way to brighten the walls and halls of your school. Encourage each teacher to decorate the entry area every few weeks to keep things fresh and lively. Students love checking out what others have created and will be engaged the minute they walk in the doors.
One way to boost school spirit is to prominently display student awards and accomplishments. Sports trophies, science fair projects, academic recognition, athletic jerseys, student photography and artwork, and other tangible projects are wonderful items to share with students and visitors who come to your building.
Your local Habitat for Humanity Restore or Goodwill store offers quality second-hand furniture and building materials. Can your volunteers re-purpose or recycle furniture to display school awards? Could they build or install wall-mounted shelves in the school entryways? Can someone from the community build or donate a trophy shelf for your school?
Make it easy for people to find your school office. Again, ask your parents and teachers to pitch in. Can they craft simple wooden signs designating the front office, the gym, or teacher’s rooms? Anything they create will make your school a more welcoming place. The signs don’t have to be fancy, just bright and helpful like this one.
Stencils and rub-on decals are two other inexpensive ways to personalize your school. Whether you use them in the hallway or in the front office, they can tell visitors a lot about the environment of your school. A simple “Welcome to our school” stencil is a great way to greet people.
Stencils are a great visual to display above doorways. For less than $10 and 10 minutes, you can add a nice farewell over your school exit, which says “Have a great day” or “Thanks for visiting our school.”
If you don’t already have one, think about adding a seating area or student lounge in your school. Both visitors and students can take advantage of this space during the day.
Tap volunteers who can paint wooden furniture or who can reupholster sofas couches, and chairs. Ask a design expert to help you configure the space and add lighting. You don't need to spend much to make a difference.
From wall padding to chairs, these two parts of a school are incredibly important for school spirit and branding as they are seen by staff and students every single day. When you think of it that way, it pays off to make these 2 common things we take for granted a top focus for branding a school.
Once your hallway walls are up to snuff, look around at the lighting in your building. Are lights missing or flickering? Is your school dark and dingy? Not only is that depressing, it’s dangerous. Students and staff need proper lighting to do their work.
Simple fixes—like upgrading to better bulbs or adding more fixtures—can make a world of difference in brightening your school and your mood. If your budget allows, consider installing sustainable and motion detection lighting systems. These are a great way to conserve electricity.
Floor and task lamps are another option. Whether you wish to add light to a seating area, an office, or a classroom, you can find great deals on lamps in thrift shops and discount warehouses. With a little creativity and tender loving care, you can decorate the lamp and the shade to be a one-of-a-kind treasure.
If you have an older school, you may not have central air conditioning. The price tag for installing an HVAC system and ductwork is prohibitive for many districts.
Don’t suffer through the heat. Do as one Illinois school did and create your own DIY (do it yourself) air conditioning system. Using money from the school’s parent teacher organization, each unit was created for just about $30. Genius!
Here’s a simple how to video using just an ice chest, PVC pipe, a fan and ice. You’ll notice you can even switch from battery to solar panel to be more sustainable. There are many other ways to create cooler temps at your school. Google homemade air conditioners or use Pinterest for more ideas.
Now that you’ve made it easier for everyone to concentrate, you can focus on making the rest of the school more visually appealing, clean, and bright.
If you’re lucky, your school has lots of natural bright light. No matter how many windows you have, make sure they sparkle. Schedule a volunteer spring cleaning to polish windows until they gleam.
Here are just a few DIY window ideas. You can use:
Two of the most important components of gymnasiums are proper lighting and safety. These are not areas where you want to scrimp. Hire a qualified electrician to retrofit or install new lighting throughout the gym. Be certain your students and athletes can see. The next is safety, which is all about having quality wall pads or wall padding throughout the gym. Depending on your budget, you can get really creative with investing in wall padding for your gym with adding multiple colors and school logos.
At SportsGraphics, we’re pleased to be part of the solution. Our tests found that our 3” foam wall pads provide superior protection against concussions compared to the standard 2 inch. We pride ourselves in making the best gym wall padding that looks and great and protects your students!
We custom design and manufacture protective gym wall padding products to fit any space you request. All our wall padding is constructed from heavy-duty vinyl with stainless steel staples and is easy to install.
Use our wall padding products on bleachers, scoring tables, columns, and corners for extra protection.
Bleacher enclosures are a great way to provide added safety and spruce up your gym. Once they’re installed, they’re designed to stay put. The durable vinyl product simply opens and closes with the bleachers. What could be simpler?
In addition to adding a splash of color and school spirit, affordable custom bleacher skirts from SportsGraphics offer added protection to your gym. They cover sharp edges and prevent young spectators from running under and around the busy bleachers.
Don’t scrimp on wall or gym padding. Invest in quality. Invest in durability. Invest in safety.
Teachers have long known about making (usually their own) decorating dollars go farther. From displaying artwork to bringing in plants and pets, teachers want their classrooms to be warm and inviting spaces where students are eager to learn.
Blogger Karin Katherine used chalkboard paint to jazz up a door. Teachers could do the same to welcome students to their classroom.
Don’t overlook the difference some simple fabric can make in a classroom. This clever teacher—from foreverinfifthgrade.blogspot—selected some bright and cheerful material and created a fabric skirt around her desk. She said it not only covered up clutter, but it gave the appearance of a brand new space.
Even though Chemistry teacher Scott Byrum was fortunate enough to have a renovated classroom, he thought he’d take it a notch farther. The Higden, Alabama teacher decided to look up for inspiration. He installed—a la Breaking Bad style—ceiling tiles containing the periodic elements. His reason?
“Unless I can keep my classroom …exciting, I will lose the students in a matter of moments. This periodic table on the ceiling almost engages their minds visually like a game,” said Byrum.
For some truly “epic” classroom decorating ideas, check out these images curated by Buzzfeed. Inspired? Yep. We are too.
Younger students need time to relax and run in between lessons. Regular playground workouts actually improve attention span and learning, according to Edutopia.com. In addition to your gym, make sure your school playground is in tip-top shape.
Volunteers can paint equipment, weed, pick up litter, tighten nuts and bolts, repair swings, and plant flowers. With very little money, they can replace old basketball nets, spread mulched tires for playground surfacing, freshen up softball mounds, add stone pavers, and even install a bench or two.
One great way to give your playground a quick facelift is to install printed windscreens around the perimeter of the fences. SportsGraphics offers custom windscreens for very affordable prices. Not only are the windscreens beautiful, they also provide privacy and boost school spirit. Choose a logo or mascot and SportsGraphics will design the ideal windscreen for your playground.
SportsGraphics hopes you’ve enjoyed our ultimate school guide. Most of our ideas are very affordable and will give your school the facelift you desire. But when it comes to student safety, we know tested and true solutions are the only choice. We’re proud of our products, proud of our business, and look forward to helping our current and future customers with all their needs.
Our skilled team of designers know that in the world of gym mats and impact protectors, there is a difference between quality pads and a wall mat that was designed to last two years as well as safety padding and padding never intended to endure a single impact. There are pads made to sustain the environment and pads backed with a "wood-like" compost that rots in moisture. When we put our name on our pads we are confirming our mission; to conscientiously design superior padding for today's athletes. We're only interested in manufacturing the best gym wall pads and other protective products.
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Because SportsGraphics has been in business for 27 years, we find that going beyond what our clients expect is our biggest thrill. We love the feedback we receive and gain momentum to be even better. We are excited to be able to offer the shortest lead time in the industry, and we are proud to be able to lower prices when our resourcefulness through constant improvement pays off. As a result we have thousands of happy clients; field managers, contractors, and athletic directors among others, that we maintain relationships with. And that really is what we are all about.
"SportsGraphics, Inc. did a fantastic job of making our wrestling room look great again. The personnel are extremely knowledgeable, very efficient, and easy to work with. They provided us with a high quality product at a very fair price." Tony Norton, Iowa Falls High School