Stephen Girard Elementary gets a makeover from the community

Thomas Koger, principal of Stephen Girard Elementary, stands on the newly pained  American flag in the school's recess yard. Rikard Larma/METRO
Thomas Koger, principal of Stephen Girard Elementary, stands on the newly pained
American flag in the school’s recess yard. Credit: Rikard Larma/Metro

Thomas Koger placed his hands against the freshly pained Giraff included in the mural that drapes the walls of the entrance to Stephen Girard Elementary School.

Koger, principal of the South Philly K-4, shook his head.

“Beautiful,” he said, “Isn’t it?”

Marketing company Digitas Health chose Girard for its yearly community service day. Teaming with members of Razorfish Healthware and Publicis Health Media, about 300 volunteers pained murals in the auditorium and on the first, second and third floors of the school building on Aug. 16.

Koger said it helped make the students’ first day on Sept. 9 special.

“The children were happy, the teachers were happy,” he said. “It kind of boosted the morale of the staff.”

In just a few hours, the group pained all three floors, several murals and asphalt art in the recess yard. Kids now have new hopscotch lanes as well as a giant, colorful American flag.

“I ask the kids to walk to Pennsylvania,” he said.

The Passyunk Neighbors Association and other neighborhood groups also contributed with some work in the school’s small community garden. Area residents cleared shrubbery, planted flowers and painted the surrounding iron gates to spruce up the atmosphere.

Koger said without Community Day, the new paint job would have cost the school district “a lot of money.”

Digitas picks a different school every year. After making some calls to a fellow principal, Koger got Girard’s name on the short list of possible locations.

When the group came to tour the school for the evaluation process, Koger joked, “You don’t have to talk to anyone else, just stay right here,” he said. “Don’t talk to anybody else.”

When the group arrived it brought recess and gym equipment and toys.

“They brought all the paint and then left the paint for touch up,” Koger said.

With the ongoing union negotiations and school funding crisis, Koger said it’s nice to have something positive to appreciate.

“It’s a very good feeling,” he said, “when people come and say, ‘We’re willing to help.’”


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