The new Merriman Park Elementary teachers’ lounge

Teachers at Merriman Park Elementary never complained about their old teachers’ lounge, but space wasn’t used efficiently to handle the school’s staff of 60, and decades-old smells could never quite be identified.

Enter parents. Problem solved.

The PTA surprised staff with an unveiling Monday of their newly renovated lounge, complete with bistro tables, buffet-style counter, two microwaves and bins for recycling. Kim Armstrong of Kim Armstrong Interiors, an MPE mom, kept the blue and gold school colors but went bold and bright in her design.

“Aesthetics change how you feel,” Armstrong told me. “I wanted to create a space where the teachers could step in and get away and relax and be reenergized. This is a clean space; it’s happy, it’s bright and it’s fun.”

“We couldn’t do anything about the floors or drop ceiling,” explained Armstrong, “so I wanted to create a strong graphic to draw your eye away from the things we couldn’t change.”

Her budget was only about $3,000, so Armstrong relied on help from Bentwood Kitchens and Richland Renovations. Parents pitched in to purchase tables, chairs and other items.

“My teachers are not going to want to leave,” Principal Susan Burt said. “This will make them feel loved. They already know how appreciative the community is of them, but to know they invested their time, their money, their thoughts — now they are going to want to stay.”

Jennifer Leavell is an MPE first-grade teacher, and her children attend the school.

“If the teachers are happy, then the kids are happy, and if the kids are happy, then the parents are happy,” said Leavell. “It’s nice to have this escape. It will be like we’re going out to lunch.”

You can check out MPE’s teachers’ lounge when school begins on Monday, Aug. 20.

The old MPE teachers’ lounge

Surprised teachers marvel at the work of MPE parents

MPE staff at the unveiling