When students and staff once again fill the hallways of Licking Heights' North Elementary for the 2022-23 school year, they will be greeted with a new, fully completed "welcoming" mural that was painted with student and parent assistance.
The mural covers two walls of the entryway in North Elementary and was shaped in partnership with Jeremy Hollon, associate director of community partnerships for community refugee and immigration services (CRIS).
Licking Heights’ art teacher Rachel Fout oversaw the collaborative painting of the mural on the south and east facing walls of the elementary school’s entryway.
Over a period of weeks, students, parents and staff completed painting the mural, using a color and illustration guide provided by CRIS.
Fout said Holon wanted to provide the various artists with almost “a coloring book” rough on the walls to detail and paint.
Mitch Tom, Licking Heights supervisor of pupil services said: “This is just one of the things we are doing for family engagement. Basically, it’s about trying to support districts and buildings regarding how we build relationships and engagement. One of the big things I talked about is creating a more welcoming environment, and what says 'Welcome' more than the languages we speak?”
The Licking Heights School District currently instructs students who speak more than 42 different home languages. The completed mural represents Licking Heights’ diversity with images, but also various forms of "welcome" in a range of languages.
Other North family engagement offerings included a "virtual" reading of a book which students participated in toward the end of the 2021-22 school year.
"We’re trying to do things that connect to what we’re currently doing in the classroom," Tom said.
The mural, virtual book reading, and other special offerings are also made possible by the "National Network of Partnership Schools at John Hopkins University" whose stated mission is "Building strong family, school and community partnerships to support each student."
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: New 'Welcome' mural covers walls of Licking Heights' North Elementary