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Labor of love cleanup effort transforms Archer Glen grounds

Staff and parents pitch in to clean school grounds


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - GROUP WORK â€' A group of Archer Glen Elementary parents and students take a break in front of the school during one of their summer work parties that met to spruce up the grounds by weeding, pruning and spreading bark chips.Staff, parents and students couldn’t help but notice how good the grounds around Archer Glen Elementary were looking at the start of the school year, and no, elves didn’t come by to weed, prune and clip their way around the facility.

Rather, the project was a labor of love organized by a group of parents who made a commitment to volunteer over the summer to get the grounds back into shape, and they got some extra help from a couple of businesses and Richard Rivera, the school district’s lone landscape maintenance employee.

Janet Robrecht, a mom of five who has a kindergartner, second-grader, third-grader and fifth-grader at Archer Glen, is part of a group of parents who wait in front of the school every day to pick up their kids and walk them home.

“We were talking about the landscaping situation in May and June and how big and tall the weeds were getting,” she said. “I felt driven to do something about it. I asked the school if we could send out an email saying the first Monday after school was out, there would be weeding party starting at 10 a.m.

“About 25 families replied and said they were thinking the same thing – that the weeds were getting bad. Seven to 10 families came on that first Monday of vacation. My family kept going back to prune hedges, and I pulled up one day to work and saw Richard. He said, ‘Wow.’”

Families committed to coming once a month for a work day, and many also stopped by on their own to do some weeding and pruning.

“In July we met again, and Richard worked with me,” Robrecht said. “He loaned us tools and showed us how to use them. We are so thankful and so grateful he worked with us. One time he worked for two days five hours each day. And he got permission to hire a contractor to spray all the clover in the grass.”

The end result, after work parties in June, July and August plus a lot of drop-by help in between, was nicely pruned hedges and plants, clover-free grass and six units of bark chips spread around the plantings.

Robrecht especially wants to thank Gary DeGarmo, an Archer Glen parent who works for Valley Landscape Center and got the company to donate the bark chips, and Michelle with Cory Platt and Sons Inc., which donated black landscaping fabric for some of the “really big, bad areas.”

“She saved us hours of work,” Robrecht said.

As for Rivera, “It was so fun to be able to help him,” she said. “We had so many clippings and weeds. I was taking them home at first, but then Richard took all the rest of them.”

Alas, gardeners know that their work is never done. “The weeds are coming back,” Robrecht said. “We will need to keep doing it, but it just needs maintenance now. The hedges have grown 4 or 5 inches since we pruned them. We’re going to keep it looking good.”

Besides the satisfaction of a job well done, the volunteers were served cookies and water at the end of the work parties.

“I was so overwhelmed with all the support,” Robrecht said. “People came forward to help and did whatever they felt comfortable doing. I still can’t believe it. Some people donated money - $5, $10, $20 – for bark chips, but after it was donated, we gave it back.

“We’re raising city kids, and they need to do some service. I grew up on a small farm and had chores, and I want my kids to do some community service. Kids would come and work for a while and then ride their bikes around while the parents kept working.”

According to Robrecht, Archer Glen’s secretaries were especially impressed with the school’s new look. “One said, “I don’t know how long it has been since it looked this good,’” she said.

“We appreciate getting the go-ahead to spray the clover. It was attracting bees. It’s fun to go to the school now, and it’s so nice the clover is gone!”

From Rivera’s point of view, the Archer Glen volunteers made his job a whole lot easier.

“I was very happy about it, and they were great,” he said. “Janet is a wonderful person, and it was a real pleasure to work with her and her friends. I just happened to be there that day they were talking and approached me about contacting PAC members to help – it was a coincidence.”

Rivera said “the word is out” that all the school grounds can use some TLC from volunteers, especially now with more budget cuts in place this year.

“The budget cuts affect everyone,” Rivera said. “It can be overwhelming at times. In the past, Scout troops and church groups have volunteered to work on the grounds.

“Parents have done a lot of landscape maintenance at Edy and Laurel Ridge schools, and it would be great to get groups going at all the schools.”

Rivera suggested that if people, whether they have kids in school or not, want to volunteer, they should contact their local school.



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