DECATUR-- "This school was being built while I was being born!" Principal Lawanzer Smith said. She insists the school still has the original decor from 1967. "We've gotten very good at turning lemons into lemonade."
Coilette Murray was sick of lemonade. She saw it when her oldest son, Cerdarius, wen through Chapel Hill Elementary. Now her second son is in first grade:"My son said to me, 'why don't we have flowers? why don't we paint the school?'" So she entered her school in the Georgia United Credit Union School Crashers contest.
The Credit Union partnered with 11Alive News, Star 94, and 790 The Zone and asked schools to submit their plans for a school makeover. The need was huge. More than 750 nominations asked for the school makeover of their dreams.
As the hundreds of nominations were narrowed to just a few, principal Smith put together her wish list. She starts with the front entrance. The community gathered to pull weeds, pressure wash the building, and remove debris, but the entrance is still bleak. "It should be bright, colorful and energetic, just like the children," she said.
The school wants to plant a tree in honor of Autumn Mack. The kindergartner was hit and killed in front of several other students while Trick-or-treating in October 2013. Since her favorite color is pink, they're hoping to find something that blooms pink.
Smith also focused on the lobby and cafeteria. "It's hard to teach students the proper cafe etiquette when they are eating in something that resembles a cardboard box everyday," she said.
Smith knew the school won the contest Friday, but was sworn to secrecy. Representatives from Georgia United Credit Union, Star 94, 790 The Zone, and 11Alive shared the secret with the rest of the school Monday during 11Alive's noon newscast.
Volunteers will be back at Chapel Hill Elementary July 25-26 to crash the school with a makeover. Students arriving in the fall of 2014 will be welcomed by a revamped school. "We need the outside to match what's happening with our students and teachers in here", principal Smith said. "We need happy in here!"
PHOTOS | Check out the photos from Monday's announcement: