Instead of small donations, a group of parents and teachers wanted to transform Maple Grove Elementary School’s cafeteria to make a lasting investment for students.

The school’s parent-teacher organization donated about $25,000 to paint the cafeteria walls, install new lighting and sound baffles that absorb noise, purchase new tables and chairs and put up new posters, signs and decorative pieces, president Leslie Siems said. For three years, the group saved up money raised by selling cookie dough, hosting dine-to-donate events at local restaurants and silent auctions, she said.

PTO members then talked with school officials about what large-scale projects would best fill the school’s needs, Principal Brooke Phillips said.

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“The cafeteria and LGI (large group instruction) space is one of the most utilized spaces in our building with a multitude of events hosted here,” Siems said. “Our vision for the cafeteria project was to utilize the funds for a large-scale project that directly impacted all of our students, staff and parents.”

Before the renovation, walls were all one gray color and the only accent color in the room was two different shades of blue, Phillips said. Now, the lunch room’s walls are shades of grays and browns with more decorative touches, she said.

In addition, the cafeteria has a special section for students to eat lunch with their friends as a reward for good behavior, Phillips said. The “rock star lounge” has new tables and chairs, as well as posters and wall hangings, she said.

The cafeteria and large group instruction rooms, which are separated by a removable wall, are used for breakfast and lunch, special events such as author visits, classroom plays, music programs and meetings, Siems said.