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USD 372
200 Rice Rd
P.O. Box 39
Sliver Lake, Kansas 66539
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Greenhouse completion slated for early November

(Article by Rivers Schwenn / Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017)

Concrete 1You’ve probably already heard all the buzz about the brand new greenhouse being built on the northeast side of Silver Lake High School. Tim Hallacy, district superintendent, shared all the details.

“We really started talking about the concept of a greenhouse and outdoor learning area about three years ago. We started looking at that; we wanted to find a way for students and teachers to have a more creative outlet for science, agriculture, and those types of classes where students could experience science firsthand,” Hallacy explained.

He said that this three-years-in-the-making project will be worth the expense.

“The greenhouse, once we’re done with everything, the total project including the greenhouse, the land work, the outdoor covered area for learning will be about a $330,000 project. That’ll be paid for out of capital outlay funds which are specifically designed for projects, maintenance, and facilities,” he said.

After thorough planning, administrators have approximated a completion date. The greenhouse should be ready for use about Nov. 1 or 2.

TrenchHallacy explained that students take away many benefits from using the facility when taking a greenhouse-integrated class.

“One of the things we really like about it is that it allows for more engagement. Active learning- instead of just talking about it or writing notes over something. You can actually learn something in theory and put it into practice with the greenhouse,” he said.

He went on to describe some examples of topics students might focus on in the greenhouse.

“You can begin to start to look at things like solar power - how we power the greenhouse. We can also look at more sustainable types of food production. Hydroponic farming was an example. We might start that in another year or so. So just a lot of things that will help students learn how to stretch resources longer and get more out of the resources that we have.

"Students, sitting in our classrooms today, will be sharing the world with 10 billion others by 2050. Those skills and taking care of the environment in a responsible manner will become even more critical with a growing population and limited resource,” he said.

Like all good ideas, the district administration ran into some financial and physical setbacks when trying to making the greenhouse idea a reality.

“It took us a while to save up the money. It is an expensive project, and we had other projects that we were trying to also complete at the same time such as the 1 to 1 initiative, we had some vehicle replacements, we had to replace some roofs, some things like that. So we had other projects that we needed to get done,” he explained.

But that wasn’t the only hoop for Hallacy to jump through.

“Once we decided to move forward with it, it took us a while to get the land that we had set aside for that, to get that zoned to be able to do that project. So we worked with the city to get that done, and that took a little bit of time, but we were able to get that going here this fall,” he said.

Hallacy shared a sneak peek of the basic layout of the new greenhouse.

“The greenhouse is going to be about a 25 by 50 foot facility. We also designed it where we could double the size of that over time depending on future need. It’ll be connected to city utilities, so we’ll be able to control that. We’ll also have a covered learning area so that students and classes can go in, work in the greenhouse, but then also have an area outside to work in the covered area,” he said.

There are also some additional features to be incorporated.

“We’re also going to have planter boxes that classes and grade levels can plant and do experiments and use those over the course of the school year and take everything from planning and planting to harvesting whatever it is that any class wants to grow,” he said.

Of course, this project wouldn’t be possible without construction companies and architects.

“We worked with Murray & Sons Construction and the architect HTK to design the project. We have worked with HTK before, and the actual construction company through this process,” he said.

The district’s maintenance staff will eventually help to maintain the greenhouse.

“They’re not really involved much yet but right now they’re simply helping out as we start to connect the utilities up - water, electricity, those kind of things. They’re really not involved with the construction of the project. Then once the project is up and going and we’re using it, they’ll be involved with maintaining the facilities, monitoring those. If there’s issues, any type of light issues with it, they’ll repair those like they do across the district,” he said.

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(Photos by Isaak Smith and Cooper Davis)