A 21st-Century One-Room Schoolhouse

An Arlington 8-year-old needed a place to concentrate in the time of Covid. More than 25 neighbors donated materials for her rainbow classroom.

Ixel Blandon McIntire in her rainbow classroom. Courtesy photo

When Arlington schools shifted to remote classes last spring, 8-year-old Fleet Elementary student Ixel Blandon McIntire had trouble with the change. Her special needs made it difficult for her to focus in her family’s small Penrose home. So her dad devised a solution.

In mid-June, after planning and pricing out how much it would cost to build a study shed in the side yard, John McIntire posted a request for two-by-fours in his local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group. His food truck, Mac’s Donuts, had been sidelined at the beginning of the pandemic and money was tight. Crowdsourcing seemed like the best option.

Neighbors donated spare wood. One directed him to a pile of discarded materials up for grabs near the former Patrick Henry Elementary. Someone had paint. Others offered a chair, a heater and a clock. In the end, more than 25 neighbors contributed to the effort. “People came out of nowhere and were ready to help us,” says Ixi Barrios Blandon, Ixel’s mother.

Ixel herself helped with the building process. She carried materials, helped dig the foundation hole, hammered nails and painted, naming the shed Rainbow Elementary—a reference to its hand-painted, corrugated plastic roof, which allows soft sunlight to shine in, whereas windows at eye level would have been distracting for the young student.

In August, Rainbow Elementary was complete, with a desk, a reading corner and a list of affirmations hanging on the wall—basic building blocks for a successful (albeit atypical) school year.

Categories: Community