At last night’s school board meeting the Washington High School’s Garden Committee presented its plan for an indoor garden to the school board.
The garden in the former junior high school building has been an ongoing project for the high school. Last fall the committee began working on it by removing most of the garden.
“We’ve dug out about 10 to 12 inches,” said Robin Flattery, Washington High School English teacher. “There were 18 truck loads of contaminated soil sent to the dump site. We removed it so we could start fresh.”
The garden was damaged by mold.
School board member Heidi Vittetoe asked what caused the mold issue with the garden previously.
“The issue was that we had way, way, too much mulch,” said Tammie Schultz, who is a certified para-educator in the district. “That is something that we can eliminate.”
“What we’re hoping to do with the garden is completely redesign it,” Flattery said. “We want to make it pretty low-maintenance because we’ve run into issues with maintenance in the past.”
Flattery said the committee would like the garden to be used educationally. They would like students to be able to draw the plants for art, have an herb garden for the gourmet foods class to use in their recipes, and they’re hoping to get other student clubs involved.
“We want to build a living classroom,” Flattery said, “so our kids can get a hands-on living experience that they couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Jiovanni Tapia is one of the students who has been working on the garden. He told the school board about the many resources they have.
“We do have a source of fresh clean soil that is uncontaminated,” Tapia said. “We also have connections with [a local grocery store]. We have teachers that work there during the summer and they can hook us up with rocks, plants, and decorations — those types of things.”
There was no action scheduled at last night’s meeting. However, the committee did ask the school board for assistance.
“All we’re asking for is your approval and a small annual fee of $500,” Tapia said. “This will go towards helping maintain the garden. You do have a dedicated group of people to maintain that garden every year.”
Schultz said she has been in contact with Kirkwood Community College and Coe College experts about the space.
“We have a very unique space,” Schultz said. “You need to do this right and that is our goal.”
Both Schultz and Flattery bring expertise to the garden committee. Schultz is a master gardener and Flattery worked at a botanical center in college.
“The master gardeners are willing to help,” Schultz said. “We have a lot of community support. We have a lot of people that want this to happen.”
The ideas being kicked around for the garden include having a container garden, having two walkways that divide it into thirds, sitting areas, and to build it up so it’s level with the hallway.
There is no set timeline right now but the committee hopes to get the soil into the garden soon. They haven’t done any work on it because they’re waiting to hear about funding. Washington High School submitted a grant to the Washington County Riverboat Foundation for $10,000 to help get things moving.