If Jill Hallauer heard the question one time, she heard it 100 times as she walked the halls of Pine View Elementary School. "Is the art room finished?" At noon Thursday, HGTV designer Bob Novogratz gave the answer everyone was waiting for. "The art room is finished," he announced to a cafeteria filled with cheering children.
Then came the big reveal of the $25,000 classroom makeover, which Pine View won from Bounty paper towels and its teacher-support website, teacherwishlist.com. Hallauer, who said the wait made her feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, could barely express her excitement at the overhaul.
Her jaw dropped, then a huge smile crossed her face, as Hallauer entered the redesigned room for the first time. Bob and Cortney Novogratz took the mostly white space and transformed it into a colorful, technology laden place for teacher and kids to experience art.
"Oh my gosh," she repeated. "It's too much."
The 20 students randomly selected to join in the ribbon cutting weren't at such a loss for words.
"Awesomeness," said fourth-grader Michael McBride, as he sat in one of the room's new brightly colored seats.
"It's very cool," chimed in fourth-grader Raygan Alvarez. "I like the chairs."
"The floor," said second-grader Andrew Murray, pointing to the black and white pattern that replaced the old tiles that no one even remembered. "I like this pattern. It's the same room, but. …"
"It's a lot different," added Raygan.
Hallauer said it would probably take her days to take in all the things that the makeover added to her work space, from the many art books that the Novogratzes picked out during a Barnes & Noble shopping trip to the iPads and digital cameras now available to integrate technology into her lessons.
She was thrilled with little touches, which the Novogratzes called "the layering," which included of all things a hole punch (she didn't have one before) and a blue and white paisley pillow that adorned her new bright orange teacher's chair.
Cortney Novogratz hit a couple of shops before finding the pillow during the Tuesday shopping trip. She liked what she saw in Pottery Barn, but rejected the choices because "the colors are going to be too muted in here. I like something bright."
The trip continued.
On the way to Pier 1, the designers made an impulse stop at Target, where Cortney Novogratz immediately headed to the home design section. She traversed the aisles, eyeing a black pillow with white dots, then a lime green one with white stripes.
"I'll keep these as options," she said, carrying them as she walked on.
She turned up the next aisle and stopped short.
"I found the perfect pillow," she said, dropping the others. "How cool is that? Blue goes with orange, and she likes paisley. That was a score."
Hallauer agreed Thursday as she hugged the pillow, saying simply, "Paisley! Oh my goodness."
Bob Novogratz was elated with the response to their design. The goal all along was to create a fun environment to work in, he said, one that met the school's needs but also surprised.
"We have seven guinea pigs of our own," he said, referring to his own children. "We know what kids respond to. The youth keep you relevant and they keep you cool. … I felt comfortable they were going to love it. It worked out."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.