Plans are in place for Sutherland Elementary School to provide its seventh- and eighth-graders with their own “mini-campus,” a space featuring flowers and other inspiring amenities in the heart of the school grounds at 10015 S. Leavitt St.
Dubbed “the quad” by Becca Blue, a school parent and member of the Sutherland Foundation, the space is located between the annex building, which serves seventh- and eighth-graders, and the main building.
The Sutherland Foundation for Education and Enrichment is raising funds to complete the project in coming months, and Blue said she and other members are always looking for answers to a simple question: “What can we dream of?”
“That is the movement of the foundation right now,” Blue said. “This past year, we’ve been trying to take care of the teachers as much as we can—what do you need for remote learning? In 2020 and 2019, what do your classrooms need? What can we do for the teachers?
“Now, we kind of want to shift that to what do the kids need? Obviously, when the teachers get something, the kids benefit. But, we want something where the kids are like, ‘This is my school.’ We want to start dreaming—how do we go the next step? How do we take Sutherland and ask, ‘What’s next?’”
Currently, the space between the annex and the main building is comprised of asphalt, with a narrow space opening up into a larger vacant area. A dumpster is decorated with graffiti art by teacher Kyle Baer and the word “Sutherland.” It would remain in the space.
Blue said the beautification will start with metal planters being installed outside the annex windows, so students have something beautiful to admire. She would also like to see a large shade sail installed; it would be anchored into a school building and extend out over the space. She also dreams of trees one day being planted, and seating and more portable “metal gardens” being installed.
The goal, Blue said, is to give students an area that “really feels urban, but it also feels like they’re outside and they get to be in nature.”
“So,” she said, “we’re trying to look for that balance.”
Younger students would come to know about the beautiful space, she said, and give them “something to look forward to” when they’re in seventh and eighth grade.
The Sutherland Foundation is run by parents and not financially tied to the school, according to Sutherland Principal Meg Burns.
She recognizes that Sutherland’s outdoor space is a popular play area for the neighborhood, and she is thrilled parents are so engaged and ambitious to endeavor to extend Sutherland’s sense of community to “outside the four walls of the school.”
Burns envisions what is currently a transition space between buildings becoming an outdoor learning area and space to socialize.
“I’m really, really excited that we have this new vision to really bring our community into our area,” Burns said, “and provide a safe and beautiful space for them to congregate—and to extend a hand to our community and to be a source of support.”
Members of the foundation are also reaching out to the neighborhood, Blue said, by hosting a Sutherland “community stampede,” in which customers on June 26 flock to a local business, Ohana Ice and Treats, 1800 W. 103rd St.
The goal is to “give love back” to businesses that support the school, Blue said, while requiring nothing from those businesses.
In the meantime, she is seeking financial support from the community to beautify the quad at Sutherland School.
Some outdoor amenities at schools—such as a playground—may be tailored toward younger students, Blue said, but the new quad is designed to benefit seventh- and eighth-graders.
“So they can feel,” she said, “like the big kids they are.”