Watson T. Comly principal Michelle “Micki” Byruch has been on the job three years and has always wanted to spruce up a 4,200-square-foot plot of land just outside the Kelvin Avenue entrance.
“It’s been on my wish list,” she said.
The ground went largely unused.
“It was a bed of weeds,” the principal said.
The Somerton district office of state Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.) knew of Comly’s plight.
Meanwhile, St. Louis-based Tidy Cats — a Purina brand cat litter — was on the lookout to help community projects across the country.
Tidy Cats has implemented a No More PU campaign. In doing some research, the company learned that Boyle was dealing with a safety issue on train tracks that run along the border of the Somerton Youth Organization fields.
Officials contacted Boyle’s office but learned CSX was erecting a fence to take care of the safety concern.
Boyle’s office knows of a number of other worthy community projects, including the grounds at Comly, located at 1001 Byberry Road. The school was hoping to create an “outdoor classroom.”
The Tidy Cats crew agreed that the Comly proposal was an important one, realizing that it “stinks” when pupils and teachers have to be cooped up inside when the weather is nice. The kids can learn about nature and enjoy a change of scenery during an outdoor lesson.
The company agreed to fund an overhaul, starting with removal of the overgrowth.
Landscapers, along with Boyle aide Nick Himebaugh, did the heavy lifting on the $10,000 project. They planted flowers and laid mulch and grass into the early-morning hours of May 3.
Later that afternoon, the Comly students burst out the door to see their new outdoor classroom.
The weeds and an unsightly bush were removed, and a stump will be ground down. Other trees remain, and there are four heavy-duty tables that can sit eight students apiece.
“There’s enough seating for thirty-two kids,” Byruch said.
Boyle said Comly is a strong school because of its principal, teachers and Home and School Association, adding that the outdoor classroom will be an added benefit.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Boyle, who lives three blocks from Comly, said state funding for such projects is hard to come by these days, and he credits corporate partners like Tidy Cats with providing the money.
“It’s something we’ve been pretty aggressive in pursuing,” he said.
Boston-based Meghan Lamontagne and Sam Miller represented the No More PU Patrol.
“Being outside can really enhance and enrich the learning experience,” said Lamontagne, who told the youngsters that she wished she had an outdoor classroom when she was in school.
All 485 students in kindergarten through fifth grade signed a long banner that read, “Thank you No More PU Patrol.” They also hugged Lamontagne and Miller before indulging in cupcakes and other refreshments.
“We hope you guys enjoy it,” Miller said.
Byruch said the area will get plenty of use and is open to any class. She thinks Kelvin Avenue neighbors will appreciate the upgrade.
“It’s a nice open space,” she said. “It’s a nice way to break up the day. There’s no reason for kids to not be outside.”
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org