‘Sign of respect’: William Blount restores student memorial courtyard

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‘Sign of respect’: William Blount restores student memorial courtyard

By Matthew Stewart | (matts@thedailytimes.com)

William Blount High School’s students are doing their part to honor their school as well as students who died while attending the high school.

Students in Billy Coning’s landscaping class have revitalized the memorial courtyard outside the main building. The high-schoolers have worked on the project for the past nine weeks.

Coning’s class split into five groups and created landscaping designs. They later created PowerPoint presentations and pitched their designs to a panel composed of Principal Rob Clark, Assistant Principal Jennifer Moore and secretary Kim Best.

Administrators approved the project and selected each group’s best design elements for the overall memorial courtyard design, Clark said.

“We’re very pleased with the results,” Clark said. “How could we not be pleased with it? It’s wonderful.”

Students planted miniature butterfly bushes, Colorado blue spruce trees and gardenias around the bronze monument marker, which was originally dedicated in 1992. They selected blue and orange plants, in recognition of the school’s colors.

Coning’s class also worked on the monument marker’s cement base. Students poured a new mixture of cement, gravel and sand for the base, created a wooden mock-up, drilled holes in the base and bolted the marker into it.

The high-schoolers also created a brick walkway between the front parking lot and front entrance. They removed about 300 bricks from outside the vocational building, cut them to size and assembled the walkway.

Students also cleared out the garden beds, making the marker more visible to staff, students and community members. Plants previously surrounded the memorial and limited its visibility.

“A lot of students didn’t know it was out there,” said senior Austin Chandler. “We wanted to make it more noticeable, as a sign of respect to them.”

More than 30 staff and students are memorialized on the marker, honoring every person who lost their lives while attending the school from Teresa Lynn Cannon who died in 1979 to Amelia Dior Keown who died in August. In fact, Keown served as the impetus for Coning’s landscaping project.

After Keown’s death, Coning took students to see the memorial courtyard. The high-schoolers later asked if they could do something to improve the area, and the project was soon under way.

‘Life-changing project’

Students were honored to participate in the project.

“For me, it was a life-changing project,” said junior Matthew Benson.

“We wanted to make people feel good about our school and the people who passed away,” said senior Drew Owens. “It’s a good way to honor them, and I hope it makes them feel good about William Blount even if they’ve been away for 10 years. The memorial means a lot to people, especially those of us who have been close to someone who is on it. I was good friends with Amelia, so this means a lot to me.

“Since my freshman year, William Blount has seen a lot of improvements,” Owens said. “We’re really coming along.”

“We’re finally starting to live up to our reputation,” Chandler said.

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