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‘We declare the Outdoor Learning Center open ...’


Farragut Intermediate and Farragut Middle schools officially opened their new Outdoor Learning Center May 8, and they took the opportunity to honor two former principals.

“This project began as a very practical idea: to install sidewalks in a very muddy area to get students from the driveway into the cafeterias, while leaving the mud outdoors,” current FMS principal Richard Dalhaus said.

But after the deaths of Donald Rhodes, first FMS principal, and Robert Frazier, first FIS principal, within months of each other, some said the project became something more.

“This is an example of two buildings working together, two parent-teacher organizations working together,” Dalhaus said. “When Doctor Frazier died, that hit everybody really hard. Doctor Rhodes died less than a year before.”

So Dalhaus said inscribed granite benches will be added, one in memory of Robert and one to memorialize Donald.

Lee Wickman, FIS PTA president, said, “We wanted to honor both principals for their contributions to both schools.”

Joan Ewers and Cathy Honken were the two parent volunteers in charge of this project.

“This was all going on and there was a shortage of funding when Doctor Frazier died. I think everybody thought the same thing, to make it a memorial Outdoor Learning Center. It was pretty unanimous between both P-T-As,” Ewers said.

Both LaNoka Rhodes, Donald’s wife, and Ruth Ann Frazier, Robert’s wife, attended the ceremony.

“The P-T-S-A was probably the thing [Donald] treasured the most. He would always stay close to those folks, and they to him. He was unbelievably proud of his staff and his P-T-A. So I wanted to be sure I was here today because they would have been very special to him,” LaNoka said. “I’m very proud. I feel so good about this. I look forward to coming back and seeing the benches.”

Ruth Ann said, “It was very, very special to be here. We just miss him so, so much. I was glad to be able to have three of his seven grandchildren there too. They didn’t know what was going on at first, but then they were very impressed.” Aldin Pittman, a kindergartener at Farragut Primary School; Ansley Pittman, a third-grader at FIS and Avery Pittman, a sixth-grader at FMS, were each able to attend.

“We brought some of the ribbon home,” Ruth Ann added. She said she planned to use in it a scrapbook in memory of Robert.

Sue Edwards, PTSA president last year when the project began, said, “We’ve had lots of volunteers” on the project. Some of the volunteers were the students themselves.

Matt Holt, a seventh-grader at FMS, helped with spreading the mulch.

“We cleared all the area of rocks and big sticks. Then we laid down plastic and laid down the mulch,” he said. “I think [the Outdoor Learning Center] is really good because we can come out here and eat lunch if our parents come. It’s a really good place for after-school activities. It’s really cool because we have handicapped tables here. I think that’s a really good addition.”

Karan Mistry, also seventh-grader, said, “I think [honoring the principals] was a great idea. I didn’t personally know Doctor Rhodes, but I did know Doctor Frazier. He knew my family really well. He was a really nice guy. It was really unfortunate what happened.”

Seventh-grader Graham Palmer said he helped because, “I thought that would be kind of cool, to remember them and help the schools out.”

His twin brother Nathan Palmer said, “I wanted an area where you could sit, think, and feel better, outside,” and that he thought the Outdoor Learning Center being used to honor Robert and Donald was a great idea because, “it’s honoring principals who have shaped people’s lives for years.”

Funds for the project came from Scripps Howard Foundation, FIS PTA, FMS PTSA, Farragut Kiwanis Club and parents.

Additional donations were given by Brian Costello of Hampton Hardscapes, Jim Howlett of Howlett Equipment Company and the town of Farragut.

“I want to make sure the town of Farragut gets a lot of credit,” Wickman said. “The town of Farragut is always there when these two schools ask.”

 

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