Franklin Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization has taken an old adage, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and applied it to a successful project to air condition the gym.
“Originally we were just looking about new basketball goals,” said PTO President Annette Reece. “The PTO was then asked on helping with air conditioning the gym. All we had was a big black fan that blew hot air.”
The project’s more than $40,000 price tag seemed daunting. Franklin PTO Secretary and school media specialist Tonya Fletcher said it was one of the biggest projects in recent history for the group.
“We looked at what we thought we could do to make the most impact,” said Franklin Principal Eric Riggs. “This is a community school. Many groups, such as Surry County Parks and Recreation, use the facility.” Fletcher explained that the only place big enough for many of the large groups to meet was in the gym.
“It was so hot it was unbearable,” said Fletcher. “Now it is so comfortable. We did it for the children. That’s the most important part of all we do.”
Almost as if by cue, the group already has been involved in bringing back the fall carnival to the school. It was to become the prime fundraising project for the effort. This was followed by selling Krispy Kreme donuts in the spring.
“It was the biggest sale we’ve seen,” said Reece. “When the Krispy Kreme manager arrived to deliver the doughnuts, he told me it was the biggest sale he’d seen in 13 years.” About $10,000 was raised in that effort.
“People were really active here in their school and community,” said Riggs. “They really pulled together.” He also said PTO Vice President Ashley Eades and Surry Schools Director of Physical Operations Robert Draughn were instrumental in helping the project be a success. Draughn served as a liaison between the school, school board and getting the work accomplished.
The group next approached the Surry County Board of Education and received support from the board for the project. The board gave the PTO a loan to get the air conditioning system and sock ducts installed. The group was given three years to pay back the loan. The PTO has $15,000 remaining on the loan.
“It goes to show that you can dream and achieve a big goal. You can dream big,” said Riggs. “This PTO is a group of hard workers. They are tenacious and persistent about a goal.”
Reece said the PTO also has added new mikes for the gym sound system and is looking into new floors for the gym. Its wish list for future projects also includes curtains and windows. The completed project at Franklin leaves three gyms left without air conditioning in the county.
Fletcher said that the support of school staff, school board, community and children has been the key to the project’s success. She said it’s a blessing to have the support of all these parties. This coming fall will mark the second year of the fall carnival’s return.
“It’s huge now,” said Reece. “I had to take a moment last year and take it all in. There was so much going on tears filled my eyes. All I’ve heard since is when are we going to have the next one.”
The carnival includes a variety of games, foods, a silent auction, a dunking booth and a talent show. Reece said the PTO hopes to feature a “The Price is Right”-style Plinko game this fall. The carnival is open to everyone in the community and has been slated for Sept. 14, rain or shine, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Franklin Elementary continues to be a thread that binds the lives of alumni, community, staff and PTO together. Riggs said that school staffers man all the booths and activities at the carnival. The PTO stages a welcome back event every fall for the school staff.
Riggs, an alumnus of Franklin, was talked into performing in the carnival talent show when a teaching assistant, who was there when he was a student, produced a video of him singing in the fall carnival talent show in the fifth grade. Riggs said recently a maintenance worker removed that gym door’s kickstand which had worn a groove in the gym floor after years of propping the door open.
It’s on to the next project for the Franklin PTO.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.