School courtyard gets makeover (6/4/09)

June 4, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It’s no longer a jungle out there.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Students and parents have volunteered to clean up the Williston Central School courtyard, pictured above.

In recent weeks, parents and student volunteers have been working hard to landscape Williston Central School’s outdoor courtyard. Removing old bushes, weeds and vines that climbed the school’s exterior, a joint effort between the school and community has resulted in a courtyard to be proud of, said Williston Central Principal Jackie Parks.

“It looks amazing,” Parks said. “Everyone has chipped in.”

Parks said with the recent courtyard cleanup, she hopes to see the space utilized more by students and classes.

On a recent Friday afternoon, parent Sarah Hibbeler dug through freshly laid mulch and compost, planting small flowers in a bed near a classroom window. Hibbeler explained that once parent volunteers began tidying up the courtyard earlier this month, the project just snowballed.

“It’s really taken on a life of it’s own,” Hibbeler said.

The project gained footing earlier in the spring after parent Nicki Layman inquired at the school about the possibility of removing a few unsightly shrubs and old trees.

“I originally brought the idea up thinking that we’d rake, maybe move a few trees and be done with it,” Layman said.

As the school underwent additions and renovations over the past several decades, the courtyard formed between the buildings. While the main courtyard features a walkway with benches and trees, there are little corners tucked away between classroom windows and the new gym that need tending to, said Layman.

“It’s a strange layout, but something we’re working with,” she said.

As Layman and Hibbeler worked in the courtyard from time to time, other parent volunteers began to take notice. Students also took part, raking and digging up invasive plants. Teachers donated flowers and other plants to the project.

Last month, on the Friday before the community clean-up efforts of Green Up Day, students worked for a full afternoon beautifying the location. With help from the school’s facilities crew, students were able to finally tear down the vines growing up the building.

Art students also took their creative supplies outside, painting murals on newly built wooden fences that cover the large outdoor air conditioning units. It was a team effort that brought the entire student body out to the courtyard two weeks ago to celebrate its redesign.

Hibbeler said students have already begun to appreciate the new look of the courtyard by visiting it more often during free time or to walk to classes. Using the courtyard as an alternative means to go to class during the warmer months is something Parks had in mind for the space.

Parks also wants to see more student involvement in the maintenance of the courtyard. She said next year’s Green Up Day event will again focus on cleaning up the outdoor space.

“This will be a continuous focus,” Parks said.

Parks said there are ideas floating around to create an outdoor classroom, with a blackboard installed along an outside wall of the school. She said it could be a great way for teachers to take their lessons beyond the classroom.

Layman and Hibbeler agree that more work needs to be done. They hope to see a rain garden built at the base of the new gym’s walls. Layman explained that heavy rains pour off the gym’s roof and flood parts of the courtyard. A rain garden could utilize the water in a much more effective way, she said.

“We’re hoping a student might want to take this on next year for their eighth-grade challenge,” Layman said.