McKinleyville Middle School staff were surprised when they returned to school after the Thanksgiving break to find the staff room at the school received a makeover.
Organized by Humboldt Independent Practice Association’s Vanessa Vrtiak, who coordinates school-based health centers, the makeover was made possible by donations from across the community and the volunteer time of some community members.
“The staff room they had was just gnarly,” Vrtiak said Thursday. “… We decided to make over that space. We have been trying to emphasize working with them on their wellness.”
She said the inspiration came from a news article that discussed a staff lounge branded “Wellville” that provided a place to destress for teachers and staff at a high school in New York.
“Times are so tough,” she said. “It trickles down to our youth. If we can do something like giving teachers a space to relax in that means a lot.”
Staff have been quite appreciative of the efforts, both Vrtiak and McKinleyville Middle School principal Elwira Salata said.
“A lot of staff members have mentioned they have been wanting this space for a very long time,” said Salata. “There were a few staff members who were avoiding this space because it was not a relaxing space and a place where they could collaborate … since then, I have had very positive feedback from them.”
She added that seventh-graders would be invited into the space on Friday for a chili cookoff.
Vrtiak organized the efforts with contributions for multiple local businesses.
“Vern’s Furniture gave us a beautiful leather couch,” Vrtiak said. “Pierson’s gave us a fountain.”
When Vrtiak reached out to Eureka Furniture Design Center, she found Ramon Grutter, who was on-board to help the school his daughter happens to attend.
“She reached to me and told me what she was doing,” he said. “When she told me what school it was for, I told her I would make it happen.”
Other donations came from Plaza, an Arcata-based furniture store, State Farm, Mad River Rotary, Miller Farms Nursery, Almquist Lumber and private donors, Vrtiak said.
Vrtiak said the staff lounge is divide into a workspace potion and a relaxation space.
She noted the project was special to her because the school is her alma mater.
“I want to inspire other schools or other people to do something like this in their school,” Vrtiak said. “… It’s great to see our little town step up and do something good.”
Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.