Principal Mary McNamee jumped at the chance to lead an impromptu tour of Lynbrook Elementary School this month.
Starting at 6 a.m. on Nov. 2, volunteers had filled the Springfield school, providing a makeover made possible by more than $55,000 in charity donations.
As the day drew to a close, McNamee wanted to treat herself as much as her visitors to the end result.
Guiding several visitors from the county school system through the school grounds, she chatted happily through a replanted garden and spruced-up cluster of trailers. She pointed out the improvements and stopped to thank the Lynbrook families, as well as the volunteers from Microsoft and nonprofit Monkee See-Monkee Do, the organizations that orchestrated the project.
However, at the door to the school’s remade Family Learning Center, the bubbly monologue caught in her throat.
“Excuse me, but there are going to be tears,” McNamee said as she walked into the room.
As McNamee looked around the center — which was moved from a cramped space down the hall to a spacious room stocked with new furniture and gleaming tablet computers — the principal quickly found her voice again.
“This is absolutely a miracle!” she said. “Just an absolute miracle!”
Lynbrook’s miracle started over the summer.
In July, McNamee came across Monkee See-Monkee Do’s call for applications for the school makeover on the same day the online nomination process closed.
The Falls Church-based organization, the charity arm of New York Times best-seller Glennon Doyle Melton’s Momastery blog, takes on community service projects both large and small with donations from its extensive network of followers.
In 2012, the nonprofit teamed up with Microsoft to help Battle Monument School in Dundalk, Md. Now it was looking to give to another school that served special and unique needs. Though the deadline was tight, McNamee knew she had to apply.
Lynbrook serves more than 600 students, 76 percent of whom learn English as a second language, the highest percentage in the county.
Also, 84 percent of students are eligible for the county’s free and reduced meal program, again placing Lynbrook among the highest percentages in the school system.
The school also is an enhanced autism services site for the county, serving more than 125 students with special learning needs.
Knowing her school fit the criteria, McNamee worked furiously that day to get the application in on time. Within a month, she heard back from Monkee See-Monkee Do: the Lynbrook Leprechauns were getting a makeover.
The school administration worked with Microsoft and Monkee See-Monkee Do to decide which facilities and technology upgrades to pursue.
In the end, the school received a treasure trove of new technology, including laptops, tablets and Xbox gaming systems; a remodeled sensory room for students with autism and special needs; a face-lift for its 13 trailers — the “Lynbrook Leprechaun Village” — including washed exteriors, painted doors and other aesthetic upgrades; and landscaping for the school grounds.
For McNamee, the Family Learning Center was the project’s crown jewel.
Four years ago, Lynbrook started the Family Learning Center as a resource center for parents. It since has become the hub for the school community.
Through the center, the school provides English instruction and job skills workshops for parents, computers for family use, and a place to catch up with friends, said Rose Martin, a second-grade teacher who helped set up the center.
“I think back to where this program started, when we were just brainstorming: We need money. Where are we going to get money? How are we going to do this?” Martin said. “And to see this, four years later? This is unbelievable.”
“I don’t know if Microsoft and the Monkee See-Monkee Do people know what they’ve done, but this might be the only place that some of our families have to actually sit in front of a computer,” said Karla Farnsworth, who serves as co-president of the school PTA with her husband, Larry.
Both Martin and Farnsworth looked on as McNamee circled the Family Learning Center, drinking in the changed space.
“Pinch me,” McNamee said. “I almost can’t believe it. It’s like a brand-new school.”