A group of citizens hope to spruce up the landscape around The Dalles High School to boost school pride, which is itself part of a larger attempt to improve academic performance. The economic development committee of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce created a beautification subcommittee to work on landscaping for the school, said Celeste Morgan, a member of the group.
“The economic development committee realized a healthy school is important to the economy of our community,” she said.
Subcommittee member Jared Sawyer said the school’s low on-time graduation rate and test scores are hampering recruiting efforts for local businesses.
School officials have said those rates are close to those of other schools with similar demographics in terms of low-income and minority rates in the student population.
The bigger goal is to improve test scores at local schools and boost the high school graduation rate, Sawyer said.
The idea of the beautification subcommittee, which first met last month, is to build pride in the school by improving its curb appeal.
FLI Landscaping has donated the services of its landscape designer, Tiffany Stranz, to create a proposal to plant drought-resistant shrubs, plants and trees in what are now the grassy areas around the front entrance to the school. The landscaping would have walkways and an irrigation system.
Stranz has already created a possible design and her next step is to price it out in terms of labor and materials.
The subcommittee also plans to bring students into the mix.
They want to solicit the input of youth on the design idea, and then hopefully putting them to work on the project, which could count for required community service hours.
The hope is to have the work done before school starts next fall, said committee member Dennis Whitehouse, operations director for the school district.
The beautification subcommittee also has its eyes on the front entrance itself, with hopes to polish up the copper panels above the front doors and maybe even paint the mural of figures at the top of the front entrance.
Committee member Dan Boldt, who graduated from the high school 40 years ago, said he can envision the exterior mural—which is now painted the same color as the rest of the building—being made to stand out more by using the same palette of colors used on a mural inside the school.
“The colors are old fashioned and beautiful,” Boldt said.
“I can see that palatte being replicated out here.”
He added, “You can use [high school art teacher] Peny Wallace’s name and forewarn her that we’re coming,” Boldt said of the mural idea.
Sawyer said Sawyer’s True Value and Just Ask Rental could donate lifts for a mural project.
Committee member Bill Hamilton said another potential was challenging each of the grade levels at the school to contribute to the project.
Boldt also suggested already graduated classes could contribute, and he planned on asking his class at its 40th reunion to pitch in.
Committee member Lynn Jones is a Master Gardener and also hopes to encourage other Master Gardeners to get involved and perhaps oversee care of the planted landscape.
Committee members are researching best methods for polishing the copper. Whitehouse said the school has made three attempts with different methods for polishing it, but without success.
Boldt could remember some years ago when the late Chere Jones polished them.
The subcommittee will create sections of their proposed work, and hopes that churches or businesses or individuals will “adopt” those sections.
Painting the school itself would be a future project, and tackling the bank of English ivy and juniper along the rest of the front of the school will be a later phase.
Maintenance of the high school exterior focuses on crack repair, for example, Whitehouse said.
“But we really don’t go around power washing because there’s an inherent fear of paint coming off.”
“We’re trying to generate some community support and energy,” Morgan said. “Not only give pride to our youth but rally the community around our youth.”
The hope is this will spur other projects, Sawyer said, “and the community will keep the ball rolling.”
Already underway is a project of Mid-Columbia Medical Center, which is seeking to refurbish the high school weight room by adding new equipment, flooring and air conditioning, among other improvements.
Those who want to be involved with the beautification work are encouraged to email Morgan at SaraMo@mcmc.net.