The Carthay Community School Park officially opened on Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony showcasing one of several new parks that are part of an LAUSD School.
The park is an outgrowth of the Carthay school garden, which began almost exactly 10 years ago when Teresa Dahl, current Carthay Garden Chair and then a parent volunteer, contacted Yvonne Savio, coordinator of the Los Angeles Master Gardener Program University of California Cooperative Extension, and asked for her help to create a school garden.
The garden has since grown to include the new outdoor classroom and park space, and serves as the foundation of the school’s effort that transformed Carthay Center Elementary into Carthay School of Environmental Studies Magnet, which began operating as a magnet program last year.
Jewett Walker, Senior Advisor to LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna’s office, kicked off the ceremony by offering congratulations from Dr. McKenna, who Walker said believes that all schools need to have green spaces so students can understand life on the planet and conservation. (McKenna had planned to attend himself but was called away at the last minute to fill in for Board President Steve Zimmer.)
Mark Hovatter, Chief Facilities Executive for Los Angeles Unified School District, said the garden was the first of its kind in the district, but one of hopefully many more as the district implements the Sustainable Environment Enhancement Developments for Schools (SEEDS) program which offers grants to help pay for garden infrastructure to create “garden ready” projects. (Nearby Hancock Park School recently opened a new SEEDS garden.)
“(The) Facilities (Department) hates gardens,” began Hovatter, joking that because of the many rules and challenges presented by the district, it often seemed that way.
“We love gardens, but we do have rules, and we found that sometimes people would try to go around us and put in gardens in the wrong places and we’d have to come back in and fix things,” said Hovatter. He added that the district is working hard to change its reputation. “We have been working hard to become better partners and hopefully we get better with each garden we do.”
Hovatter told the audience that in raising his three daughters, the biggest difference he has noticed between the younger two and their older sister is batteries. “Even books have batteries,” said Hovatter. But he said being out in natural environment is a far better way for kids to learn and spend their time.
“Gardens make the world a better place. Here we can have more butterflies and less batteries,” said Hovatter.
Principal Sharon Hall-Johnson congratulated the community on accomplishing the goal of creating the new park. She invited former principal Tracy Calhoun, who was principal when the project started, to join her at the podium.
“It’s like the little engine that could,” said Hall-Johnson, recalling the long years it took to realize the garden and the new outdoor classroom and park.
“It was a collaborative process of the community, parents and LAUSD to create this hands-on experience in a living interactive environment for our students,” said Hall-Johnson. She described how the school would be implementing science classes and taking full advantage of the new space.
Representatives of Assemblyman Richard Bloom, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and City Councilman Paul Koretz presented awards of recognition and thanks to master gardeners Louisa Cardenas and Herb Machleder, along with Carthay Elementary’s Otis Williams, for their efforts to build and maintain the outdoor spaces.
After a musical performance by the 5th grade class, which sang “This Land is Your Land,” Tyson Roberts, president of the Carthay Parent Teacher Association, thanked all the teachers and parents, as well as local sponsors Ned Brown of Teles Properties, Morgan Pasco’s Morgan Real Estate, and the Cunningham Group Real Estate Team, for helping secure funds to staff the garden on the weekends so it can be open to the community.
Yvonne Savio thanked master gardeners Louisa Cardenas and Herb Machleder for their ten-year volunteer commitment to the garden. She was followed by Teresa Dahl, who recognized Otis Williams, staff member at Carthay Elementary, for the many hours he has given over weekends to maintain the beauty of the school…and Savio for introducing master gardeners Cardenas and Machleder to the school.
“Gardens are wonderful opportunities for students to learn the basics of how the planet sustains life,” said Dahl. “But there is also the simple beauty of it,” she added, noting that our society’s values should be reflected in our schools, which should be beautiful places we all can share.
Carthay Community School Park is now open on weekends for everyone to share and cherish.