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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Beauty Not Forgotten in McLaughlin Expansion

Contractor Helping Fund Garden Planting at School

 

Last updated 8/5/2023 at 5:40pm

Robert Connors

Student and teacher volunteers have participated in weekend projects to create gardens and install a new bench surrounding one of the remaining oak trees on the campus. The bench was created in memory of 13-year-old Jaden Galindo, a student who was killed by a truck in February while awaiting a school bus.

An aggressive facilities expansion to add a high school to the campus of McLaughlin School of Excellence has been devastating to the landscape at the school, but help is coming from unexpected directions, according to McLaughlin Principal Dr. Debra Wright-Hudson.

A local non-profit, private citizens, and the project contractor are seeing to the green side of things by assisting school leaders in providing new gardens around two sides of the school.

Wright-Hudson lauded the contribution provided by the Williams Company toward the student-involved garden project. Wright-Hudson and school employees have used the contributed funds to purchase a variety of attractive landscape plants to create a flowery green cocoon around the school's brick buildings.

The call has also drawn a response from Lake Wales Heritage, the local non-profit deeply engaged in planting trees to complete the landscape plans for Lake Wales created by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. a century ago. That group's board voted this week to fund the planting of multiple trees at the campus to replace those lost to the construction project. A Heritage committee will soon survey the site to determine which species and locations are appropriate.

The Williams Company is the project general contractor now completing work on new parking facilities, and beginning work on a $15 million gymnasium at the school, located on South 4th Street in Lake Wales. Matthew Akins, project manager for the multi-million dollar construction project, was pleased that his company was able to contribute to the beautification effort.

Robert Connors

Matthew Akins, project manager for the Williams Company, explained the layout of the new campus parking and the possible route for a sidewalk adjacent to the campus. Williams Company is contributing toward the school's landscaping fund.

Akins gave LakeWalesNews.net a tour of the parking lot replacement project at the front of the school, explaining that fitting the new expanded design onto the site required the removal of several large oak trees, as well as a row of pines and some sable palms. That, he said, made the landscaping plan involving the flowering shrubs and perennials more needed.

That comment was echoed by Dr. Wright-Hudson, who is appealing to the public for contributions to help fund the new plantings. She asked that anyone able to help send their contributions to McLaughlin School at 800 South 4th Street, Lake Wales, FL 33853 and designate them for the beautification project.

Akins also explained that the project should include a new sidewalk along South 4th Street once the city's water-line replacement project is completed there. Wright-Hudson confirmed that there is "a 90% chance" that the school district will provide funding for the sidewalk. Heritage hopes to landscape that location once the projects are completed.

 

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