2/14/19 Garrett aims to build ‘Gerringer Gardens’
Garrett aims to build ‘Gerringer Gardens’
School’s PTO plans to raise $100,000 for outdoor learning space
By Jessica Williams, The Times-News 2/14/19
Reprinted with permission.
|Woody Marshall / The Times News
The proposed site of “Gerringer Gardens,” which Garrett Elementary wants to establish as an outdoor learning space for students, is seen on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019, in Burlington.
Garrett Elementary School wants an outdoor learning space and they’re willing to pay for it.
Jennifer Tripp, Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) teacher at Garrett, and Tony Tate with TMTLA Associates, presented information and renderings on “Gerringer Gardens” to the Board of Education, Tuesday, Feb. 12.
The proposed name honors Tracie Gerringer, who was a teacher at Garrett and passionate advocate for outdoor learning opportunities. She passed away from breast cancer in 2016.
The space is set to include:
- Sensory sidewalks;
- book boxes;
- a pavilion;
- raised garden beds;
- a nature play space;
- visual art opportunities;
- and outdoor classroom space.
Estimated to cost $100,000, the garden would be built in four phases spaced out over two to three years. The first clocks in around $4,000 and would place benches, plantings, stone and a mailbox in the space.
The school’s Parent-Teacher Organization plans to fundraise and help apply for grants to cover the full cost. So far, they have $10,000 in the bank, but that wasn’t enough to get full approval from the board on Tuesday.
Board Chair Allison Gant told Tripp that, in the past, they’ve required schools to have all of the money in the bank before approving construction, but that they could approve it one phase at a time as the PTO continues fundraising.
ABSS Assistant Superintendent for Operations Todd Thorpe told the board that Central Office will assign a project manager to the garden that will monitor it as they did the Eastern Alamance High School field house project.
Board member Steve Van Pelt had another concern.
“I’ve seen other schools do this and they go great for a number of years, and then the folks that are championing them leave or retire or whatever and the area goes into disuse,” he said. “How would this be maintained?”
Garrett’s PTO Vice President assured Van Pelt that many of the members leading this project have toddlers who will start at Garrett in a few years, so they’ll be involved with the school for a good while.
Tate has also eyed sturdy and low-maintenance materials for the project, so it won’t require a lot of upkeep.
As far as whether or not there is a demand for a garden at Garrett, Tripp told the board she’s had a small strawberry garden in the space for the last seven years and students still talk about it long after they’ve graduated.
“I get pictures, text messages, all kinds of communication. Kids come up to me at Wal-Mart and [say], ‘Ms. Tripp! Ms. Tripp’ and talk to me about their gardens [they’ve made] after leaving Garrett. … Just from my experience of what I’ve done with the strawberry garden, I’ve learned how critical and important some of the outdoor components, and the access that students have, is to the things that we do in the school building.”
The board plans to vote on the project — including the proposed name — at the night meeting on Monday, Feb. 25.