Greenhouse program sprouts at high school

Students at Oak Harbor High School are nurturing their green thumbs and their building skills at the same time.

Special education students have spent most of the school year renovating the high school’s dilapidated greenhouse. They are also using the greenhouse to grow herbs that will be sold to the public.

Students, school staff and volunteers got together Tuesday afternoon for a grand opening commemorating completion of the greenhouse renovation. Students were eager to give tours to anyone attending. Snacks and before-and-after photos were available during the brief reception.

The greenhouse features a concrete floor and low-standing tables, which make it easier for wheelchair-bound students.

“I think it’s just awesome,” said Coni Asplund, Life Skills teacher at the high school. “In five years that I’m here, it’s never been accessible to wheelchairs.” She said that wheelchair students could only maneuver several feet into the greenhouse.

Special education students and community volunteers started renovating the greenhouse last October.

In addition to the gravel floor, the wood tables were old and missing boards, said student Jordan Snow.

“We tore down the tables,” fellow student Robert Haynes said.

In addition to the student help, several community groups also assisted with the project.

The Oak Harbor Garden Club provided $1,000 through the Oak Harbor Education Foundation. The club decided to help fund the greenhouse because it helps promote horticulture education and many students will benefit.

“We touched more students this way than to give it to just one person,” said Connie Leonardi of the Garden Club’s scholarship committee.

The Oak Harbor Education Foundation chipped an extra $500.

In addition to the Garden Club support, members of the North Whidbey Lions and the Veterans of Foreign Wars volunteered. Several businesses including Frontier Lumber, Kelly Concrete and Kelly Concrete also supported the project, said Doug Tyler, president of the North Whidbey Lions who helped coordinate the project.

“All I did was hook up the right people for the right job,” Tyler said. His son, Andy is a student in the program.

Now that the greenhouse is renovated, special education students are busy raising herbs.

Students are growing herbs such as parsley and mint and will eventually sell them at local farmers markets. Diane Fesler-Macaluso, an occupational therapist working with special education students at the high school, said students are spending the next month raising their herbs. By then they should be ready to sell.

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