Who has first day of school jitters? Raise your hand! I’d say that’s about everyone.
Today we were all hard at work again getting the building ready for tomorrow: painting, moving, organizing. The staff have desks and work spaces, the library is small but books are getting categorized, the cork floor is ready to be played on, movable walls made so the space is usable. The shipping container now known as the workshop got a second coat of paint, there are chairs everywhere waiting to be sat on, the bathroom walls are freshly bright white. The collaborators have the day planned out to the minute and the admin staff is working hard to get the last minute details in order. Things may not be one hundred percent perfect and in their places, but the exciting thing about this school is that the students can build it up along with us and shape what they want to see in their space. How neat is that!
It’s promising to be an amazing day and we all look forward to telling you about it – the first day of the first year of this very new, exciting school.
Wish us luck!
Saturday. Three days left. Ellen and Gever were out sick yesterday and we’re all trying to stave off exhaustion and sickness as the days fly by. Luckily, though, we have a huge group of volunteers helping out with moving heavy furniture (like the immense whiteboard table that had to be dragged up two ladders to the top of the mezzanine), painting the office yellow, finishing the cork floor, painting the inside of our new shipping-container-workshop, and building walls to partition out the space. Wow’s and thank you’s abound – we couldn’t do all this without our incredibly dedicated volunteers of all ages. Will the space ever be clean? Will it soon look like a school? Stay tuned as the drama continues, all weekend! Oh, and don’t be shy if you want to come volunteer yourself!
Can I say “one of the best nights at Brightworks” to describe the parent potluck dinner last night? We’ve all come so far since the beginning of summer – and frankly since the beginning of this adventure of starting a school – and the closeness that I felt with all the parents, kids, and my fellow staff members was one of the best parts of this whole place for me. The building looked great with all the new furniture and was filled with kid things to do: drilling holes, making cardboard caps (or totem poles or stovepipe hats), playing with magnets, computer painting, getting buried in beanbags, and drawing on a rolled out piece of brown paper. The parents stunned us with the amazing collection of food, the chatter was loud, the laughter was heart-warming. There’s been – and I hope always will be – such an outpouring of support for everyone in this process of becoming a school and a community, and I just have to marvel again and again over how excited I am to get to know every single one of the kids joining us on Tuesday. As one of our future students said as he left the potluck, “I’ve never been so excited to come to Brightworks.” Hear, hear.
To be brief in a fast-moving day: CPR and first aid training with the teachers at Parker School for eight hours in a field of thirty training mannequins that, splayed on the floor, looked like a terrible kind of doll massacre; plumbing and floor drilling in between our CPR trainer’s talks about emergency situations; some furniture arranging. Oh, and prep for what promises to be a great night with our enrolled families at a to-school potluck to kick off this school year. It feels like a race to the finish – but at the finish line is yet another, more exciting race to start running.
Today the whole crew went to pick up a huge amount of furniture from a going-out-of-business office under the freeway. Swivel chairs, wooden chairs, desks on wheels, desks on four legs, short bookshelves, tall bookshelves, tables, wheeled tables, boxes of National Geographic… Later in the day thirty stools arrived, kid-height and stackable. With all this in the building, it looks like we’re going to be able to make a place that looks like a school with shiny floors, instead of the echoing warehouse! Now all we have to do is move everything out of the pile and make it functional.
The cork flooring project has begun, as well as laying sheet rock in the storage space. The windows are clean. The floor is swept. And 6 days? No sweat.
Our space is transforming. This old mayonnaise factory has seen many companies and owners come and go over the years, but it has never seen the likes of us. We stripped the floor down to the bare concrete and laid down new layers of indestructible (according the manufacturers spec-sheet) epoxy. From this tabula rasa we’re raising new partition walls and laying down the patterns of use that will shape our first months here.
If I say we’re calm and collected before the storm of the first day of school, I might be lying. Maybe.
But we’re so excited to be doing what we’re doing. Our full staff of seven came in for the first time yesterday to get down to business planning the first day of school and integrating the field trips and experts with activities and amazing projects to take on. We were off-site for most of the day as the floor was finally epoxied, and today with the floor looking shiny and new, we got to work with a small crew of volunteers painting, fixing walls, putting down the cork floor over the plywood sheets in the performance space, building walls, moving supplies, and bringing in new furniture to fill up the school for the students.
There’s work being done. Lots of it. We took a quick break, though, and made friends with Panorama Bakery, whose smell of baking bread wafts in gorgeous waves to us every afternoon from across the street. And they gave us some of their fresh-baked bread. Yum.
We’ve been working outside of the school yesterday and today in downtown San Francisco while the concrete floor in the warehouse gets epoxied – apparently, the stench is stomach-twisting and nauseating, and if we were to be in there, we’d have to wear ventilated gas masks to prevent us from passing out. So better to be kicked out then to have precious minutes wasted by being out cold. Because – wow! – there’s only 11 days left until the first day of school!
We’ve been doing a lot of planning as we prepare for our collaborator staff to join us next week, and getting excursions and experts on the calendar for the first phase of our arc. We’re also trying to coordinate schedules for when things can happen, construction-wise, in the building. As everything has to stop until the floor is completely done and dry, there’s a limited number of tasks that can happen while we wait, but we’ll still be hard at work this weekend with a gang of parents, students, staff, and volunteers to get things as ready as possible before September 6.