Residents show support for Rocky Hill Life Lab

By Nancy Gutierrez

Exeter community members addressed concerns over the Rocky Hill Life Lab at the July 27 Exeter Union School District board meeting.

In a June 8 board meeting the board failed to approve a recommendation to improve the Life Lab through renovations that would have cost the district, $17,400. On June 14 the board facilities committee met to come up with several suggestions to change the Life Lab. Board member Mark Hellwig said the facility committee had been presented with several ideas for the area. One in particular involved planting a large amount of grass in the lab and consolidating the planting areas as well as moving the fruit trees.

Residents living near the Life Lab came to express to the board their interest in the Life Lab and that it does not create a problem for the neighborhood.

"I live on Hampton Court and none of us see it as a problem," Nancy Becker said. "The parking lot can be as much of an eyesore as a garden."

Becker's son Nick wrote a letter to the board telling them of the time he and his classmates spent in the garden at Rocky Hill and how important he thought it was for students to have that experience. Nick wrote, "In Mrs. O'bosky's class we grew onions and cabbage and later made corned beef and cabbage. During spring break my brother and I took care of the garden. Though we have a garden at home it's important for other students to get to participate in the garden."

Rocky Hill teacher Darcelle Snodgrass told the board she uses the Life Lab with her class every year, in big and small ways.

"We read about the pilgrims garden and purchased the vegetables that they had," she said. "I understand that the maintenance is not what you'd like it to be, but I want you to know that it is being used."

Residents Dennis Dismuke and Ted Macaulay also spoke in favor of keeping the Life Lab as is and utilizing community help with upkeep. Dismukes said he recently spent time cleaning the garden and recommended possibly planting jasmine below the chain-link fence that would grow up the fence-line and conceal the garden form the street. Macaulay said recruiting the help of Exeter Union High School students, who must earn community service hours to graduate, or ag students, who must have a service project to earn degrees in FFA, to help with the upkeep could be an inexpensive solution.

Board president Dean Sutton said that the board was not close to a decision on what to do with the Life Lab.

"The board did not decide to eliminate it," he said. "Possibly keeping it but making it smaller was discussed. But nothing has been finalized."

In other business:

  • The board approved a professional development plan for district teachers. A plan previously submitted to the board involved adding seven minimum days to the school calendar. The board did not approve the plan citing the added minimum days as too much of a disruption to students and families. The revised plan involves four minimum days where teachers will work on professional development after students leave campus and four rotating substitute days. During the substitute days half of the faculty will participate in professional development while substitutes are teaching their classes. After half of the school day has passed those teachers will go back to their classrooms and the other half of the faculty will participate in professional development. The total cost for utilizing substitutes is approximately $18,600.

    "What we hope is that there will be ongoing accountability," Deputy Superintendent Diane Graziani said. "The whole reason for doing this is to improve student performance."

  • Start typing and press Enter to search