By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN What can be accomplished with 100 gallons of paint, 500 hours, and 23 volunteers?
The maroon, gold, and white walls in Lester Prairie School tell the story.
“We’ve painted janitor’s rooms, closets, band practice rooms everything” said Kelli Machemehl, who helped organize the project.
The idea to paint the entire interior of both the high school and elementary school developed gradually.
In July 2011, the school board approved painting the walls, which included murals that had been created by students decades earlier. All murals were photographed for permanent preservation, and will be displayed in the school with the artists’ names.
A “school-white” color was selected for the walls, with maroon and gold accents.
“We tried painting two rooms last year, and we thought it looked good,” Superintendent Mike McNulty said.
This summer, the school has been undergoing major upgrades to its heating, ventilation, and lighting systems, and McNulty initially hoped to get half the school painted during the renovation.
Dedicated volunteers decided to take that plan one step further, however.
Painters covered “every nook and cranny” of the school, Machemehl said. Although most of the walls were done by volunteers, a few were completed by contractors during the renovation.
All the paint and supplies for the volunteer project was purchased from Angvall Hardware & Mercantile in Lester Prairie. The group was careful not to waste rollers and brushes, placing them in plastic bags in between uses to keep them from drying out.
“It’s always appreciated when the local tax base reinvests in its own tax base,” Eric Angvall said. “They got a really good price, and it worked out really well.”
“Parts and sections have been painted every year, but we’ve never gone all the way through like this,” said Pam Lukens, who is retiring as elementary principal. “The painting will have the most visual impact. People won’t see the other improvements as easily.”
In addition to maroon and gold stripes and blocks, the walls are decorated with removable, reusable wall graphics from Herald Journal. Featured at the entrance of the school, for example, is a picture with the phrase “Home of the Bulldogs.”
Many of the painters were teachers and parents aiming to give the school an improved atmosphere.
“It’s great to see what a simple coat of paint can do,” Machemehl said. “We hope the kids will be excited about it.”
“They’ll keep it clean, and take pride in it,” McNulty added, explaining that instead of taping posters to the walls, the school plans to attach announcements and special event information to corkboards.
For Machemehl, painting the school was not only useful, but enjoyable, as well.
“When we painted the library, we had about eight people, and got done in three hours,” she said. “It was a good opportunity to visit with each other.”
Several people have given up their time to help paint the school in Lester Prairie, including:
• Karla Heigl
• Kelli Machemehl
• Ben Machemehl
• Dan Heiraas
• Cathy Scoblic
• Joe Scoblic
• MerriLea Kyllo
• Barry Kyllo
• Karlea Kyllo
• Kali Pelam
• Cathy Houg
• Jan Smith
• John Lange
• Jill Fiecke
• Lisa Gustafson
• Jenni Sebora
• Marc Sebora
• Chris Schultz
• Kim Weinzerl
• Mary Otto
• Kelly Elling
• Mike Heigl
• Gregg Machemehl