Westside schools:
Washington planning garden, greenhouse

       A garden and greenhouse are coming to Washington Elementary.
       Saturday, Oct. 25, volunteers will begin to shape and dig up a 60-by-30-foot area near the playground for the future Learning Greenhouse and garden spot, Principal Terry Martinez said.
       The greenhouse is still being designed and soil is still being obtained, but the goal is to have the garden ready for planting this spring. Help on the costs and materials is coming from various community outreach groups, he said.
       Students will use the experience to expand their learning in a variety of ways, including conducting experiments, planting different flowers or vegetables and even selling some of what they grow. “The options are kind of endless,” Martinez said.
       The idea germinated at Washington in part because of reports about plans for a similar project at Buena Vista Elementary. “A lot of our kids don't have that experience [of gardening],” he pointed out. “They live in apartments and hotels. Some are homeless.”
       The garden effort is part of a a long list of civic-support projects for Washington that are scheduled in the weeks ahead.
       Oct. 18:
  • The start of an “extreme makeover” of the teacher's lounge, including new carpet and paint courtesy of Christiansen, Reece & Partners Architects. The firm had been looking for a service project, according to Martinez. The improvements have been needed for a while, but “it's hard to justify spending money there when you have other needs elsewhere,” he noted. The work will probably continue over several weekends.
  • A project by Eagle Scout candidate Ryan LeRoy to add shelves and other storage space inside a shed that had been built for the school last year by Mitchell High. The shed is used to store extra clothes and other items to help children who are homeless or very poor, Martinez explained.
           Oct. 25:
  • Yard work, painting and other clean-up work outside the school as part of a Families in Action project for Make a Difference Month.
  • The start of an interior “Ecology/Rainforest” mural on blank walls that were created in the major school remodeling project last year. The result of the work by Robin Stieber and Cindy Brown will be “kid-friendly, colorful and motivational,” Martinez said.
           He added that the help coming to Washington is due in large part to the school having so many children who live in poverty. As examples, 78 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, while 20 students - about 10 percent of the enrollment - are from homeless families.
           “We're constantly connecting them” to places such as Westside Cares, the Red Cross shelter or the Colorado House downtown, Martinez said. The school also provides bussing “where we can. Sometimes we go get them. Then they get here and they haven't eaten breakfast.”
           One of the groups that help the school just makes sure the school has a supply of extra tennis shoes.
           Overall, “it's exciting to see how many people are willing to step forward and do what's right,” he said. “You wouldn't know it [the number of impoverished kids] when you come here. We don't make a show of it. But there is a huge need here.”
           Retirees and senior citizens are invited to become “GrandFriends” for the District 11 school of their choosing.
           “GrandFriends are effective mentors for students by assisting them academically as well as positively impacting their lives,” reads a press release from Mary Beth Williams of D-11.
           In a follow-up interview, she elaborated that people don't need to have grandchildren to get involved. As short a time as two hours a week is OK.
           Those interested can attend an ice cream social Tuesday, Oct. 21 and an orientation Oct. 28. For more information, call 520-2311.

    Westside Pioneer/press releases