Parent volunteers save public schools $140k

Thanks to a dedicated mother and interior designer, the McKinley Elementary School library in North Park is looking new again – for much less than projected.

Heather Vitti Pruett, associate member of the American Society of Interior Designers, helped complete a 4,000-square-foot pro-bono library renovation project at Riadon fourth-grade girls’ public school.

The McKinley Elementary School Library is due for completion in November 2022. Professional interior designer and small business owner completed a $200,000 construction project for only $60,000.


The construction team consists of parents and community volunteers who come together for the various stages, saving thousands of dollars and time.

Heather Vitti Pruett and her daughter (Photo by Camille Camacho Photography)

“Effort and hard work of each volunteer made this project come true. The hard work of these volunteers created a space that generations of McKinley students, staff and associates will use and enjoy for years to come,” said Vitti.

For example, custom-made furniture was made from the parents’ raw materials, resulting in items such as a circulation table in the center and two custom bookcases. The bookcase is curved so that when people enter, the bookshelf is visible but on the other side is a seat.

“From packing books in early summer, to demos, construction, carpet removal, building custom circulation tables and custom bookshelves, painting, and installing the final piece of art in early fall 2022,” says Vitti of the various roles the volunteers take on.

The only item that was professionally installed was the carpet. The library had a detailed layout and it was decided that the carpet would be best left to the professionals.

Commercial grade carpet is 100% solution dyed nylon, has a severe traffic classification, is labeled green, has been tested for indoor air quality, and has an environmental product declaration.

“I also choose dark rugs to cover up stains or spills and choose 24” x 24” carpet tiles so if a section of the carpet is damaged, they can pull it out and replace it easily.”

Many wise decisions to prioritize long-term security in libraries are considered. Water-based paint has low Volatile Organic Compounds and has been tested for indoor air quality.

The style is modern and contemporary overall, but “I like to categorize this project as ‘Geometrically Modern,’” she says.

Since the beginning

Vitti said he decided to participate in the McKinley Parents Teachers Club to get involved in projects that benefit the school.

“At the first meeting I attended, the Beautification Committee announced that the school would be remodeling the library,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘What a perfect project for me to be involved in!’”

Designs were called in at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, and Vitti presented 3-D renderings and presentation boards to school districts, PTCs, and school foundations.

In February 2020, he was ready to present to McKinley parents and the community… then COVID-19 hit, virtual learning started, and the project was suspended for two years.

The new circular circulation desk on the right faces student comfortable cushions. (Photo by Basile Photography)

“After a long wait, in 2022 the then principal and I decided it was time to start this project again,” he recalls.

Vitti added he had a lot of fun with the project and always wanted to design a children’s library.

“I was a bookworm when I was young, and I always loved going to the local library and looking at books. My mom had a drawer full of old photos and I remember seeing some where I was looking over my shoulder at the camera while lying in bed with a book. As we all know, public schools are severely underfunded, and this is my chance to make a positive impact in my community and that of my daughter. It’s an amazing feeling to do what I love for a living and also give back at the same time,” he said.


Vitti uses his expertise as an interior designer including concept planning, space planning, color schemes, overall furniture planning, custom furniture building plans, final selection, budget preparation and sourcing materials.

The library was out of date and crowded before the renovation. (Photo by Heather Vitti Pruett)

“I do things the same way I do my regular job. Every design I do is different, but my process remains the same for every project. What I did differently was get the kids involved and use my connections in the industry to work with San Diego vendor representatives to get carpet donations, get selling prices for commercial grade furniture, and get half of the final paint and photography donated,” said founder Vitti. Interiors.

Vitti himself contributed 150 hours to design and 200 hours to construction in between running his own business. The project manager, Nancy Flores, is president of the Parent Teacher Club and contributed hundreds of hours with Vitti to complete the renovations.

Vitti was grateful to have an understanding fourth grader because of the many weekends Vitti brought his daughter with him.

“He did some of the simpler things like painting and sweeping. We also have other parents who bring their children, so they accompany each other,” said Vitti.

Kids help

As mentioned, the students played a role in the renovation. McKinley organizes the Children’s Library Committee for students in grades three through five (ages 8-11). Vitti treats the kids like clients.

“The kids are really fun to work with and they are interested and have fun on the committee and they are my motivating factor,” he said.

The project also means Vitti’s daughter can see her work in action and benefit from the project on weekly visits to the library.

“He remembers what it was like before and how it looks now. On back to school nights, I was in the library with him, and he started running around telling everyone ‘My mom designed this!’”

On the evening back at school, Vitti’s daughter told her she was proud of her “and it warmed my heart… I feel like I was showing my daughter that no matter how challenging something may be if you stay focused you can achieve it. .”

Today students enjoy a library whose color scheme is bold with purple and blue accents and contrasting green and orange accents.

“I can imagine this scheme in any other type of commercial project, but it would take a unique client to have this color scheme, flooring and textures in their home,” says Vitti.

These days, students are loving their new library and Vitti says he has been on campus for non-library related activities and is going to meet his daughter’s friends.

Once, one of the students turned and said, “I really like the library; it’s much better than before, and I love being there now. Thank you very much.”

Another student said it was nice to see the finish he chose and happy to tell everyone he helped.

“This project transcends generations of McKinley students and staff. These children deserve this library, and I am very pleased to be able to say that I helped make that happen,” said Vitti.

To see additional before and after pictures, please visit the website:

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