Tots’ trees won’t topple: Kindy Forest saved

All 60 trees in a play area used by Macphail’s youngest students will be spared, as the school board changed its plan for new portables.

Instead of going in the “Kindy Forest” area, the portables will go behind the school where there’s now a hill.

Claudia Lorenz, a spokesperson for parents, compared the eventual board move to change its plans to a car that’s hard to start – “a bit stuttery in the beginning, but we got there in the end.”

“The outcome was right,” she commented in an interview with The Advance.

“I know there were some tears of happiness when the teachers got told.”

The Bluewater board’s business services superintendent, Andrew Low, told the Herald/Advance that the new plan gives enough “learning space for our students in a safe and caring environment.”

“Staff remained committed to finding a suitable solution that would satisfy the school community and preserve the kindergarten forest,” he wrote.

Macphail will have three portables this fall, and the board plans were to find a suitable site for six in total.

Trustee Janet Kaikkonen commented: “Long term, the Kindy Forest will continue to benefit students, which was the original plan when the trees were planted. It’s a wonderful space for the children to learn!”

AFTER THE MEETING

“Following the public meeting at Macphail on March 21, (Bluewater) staff worked with the valuable input of the school community to come up with an alternate plan,” the board said in its comments.

Ms Lorenz said that board reps started with plans made by its experts – engineers and architects.

So, she believes it helped when the parents’ group presented drawings and arguments for several possible alternatives at a meeting at the school on March 21. The group of parents included people with experience in architecture and engineering.

One of those alternate plans included the site behind the school, although the board will configure the portables a bit differently.

The board said the new site design meets its portable policy and includes drainage enhancements.

THE SOLUTION

The hill at the back of the school that is to be removed was made from soil excavated when the new Machphail building was built. The hill was sometimes icy for play in the winter, and students couldn’t be seen behind it, Ms Lorenz said.

A few trees will have to be removed during the portable placement, though none in the Kindy Forest. She said they are coming up with ideas for using the stumps that are left.

Bluewater board, Macphail students and teachers, parents and community members all were happy at the news.

It came after plans sparked a wide-spread protest. One student gathered 300 signatures in the school, and an online petition hit about 1,300 names. A large number came to the parent meeting at Macphail.

Former teachers and students, who were involved in planting trees in the early 90s got involved as well. The group had expressed its hope for the trees to be conserved and thrive into the future.

Ms Lorenz commented that she has learned a lot about the adjoining Flesherton Hills natural area, which lies between Macphail and GHSS.

“I want there to be renewed interest in the Flesherton Hills,” she said. “It’s a gift.”

Asked about her family’s reaction, she laughed and said her five-year-old will just be glad to hear talk at home about something other than the Kindy Forest.

Trustee Janice Kaikkonen was in touch with parents and attended the meeting at Macphail. The decision about portables was an operational one for staff, but she said she was happy with the outcome.

She credited “the united front of parents, guardians and community stakeholders, the forest curriculum which links directly to mental health benefits for students, two BWDSB Superintendents who were willing to listen and Plant Operations staff who spent considerable time looking at other options,” when asked for a comment by the newspaper.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Flesherton Advance