Fatima Campos & Yanira Matute
PrideTime Reporter & Senior Editor
On October 17th, Stephanie Peckham, a teacher at McMahon, delivered the news to her Farm to Table class that the garden will be temporarily closed.
The news came after a team from UCONN visited the school to conduct tests and found an issue with the air intake just outside of Peckham’s classroom.
“They think, and nothing is definitive yet because they have not given us the final report, that there is air intake in Mrs. Peckham class. There's an air intake bringing air into the building and it's about 8-10 inches off the ground,” says Principal Hurwitz.
Air quality in the building is what the name itself implies. It is the air quality inside the building that can be affected, like Hurwitz says, “if people are out there [in the garden] and are kicking up dirt and dust.” Over time, the traffic in the garden and the kicking up of dirt will have an effect on the air systems.
When air quality in the building is poor, it causes individuals, not all, to develop issues with their health. Some teachers and students have developed allergy-like symptoms such as itchy eyes and coughing which led to the decision of calling in a team from UCONN to look at what was going on.
With reports yet needing to be finalized, the safest suggestion, for now, was to temporarily close the garden. Although Peckham loves the garden and feels that it is a great resource for the students in our school, the suggestion was taken because she didn’t want to continue seeing the health of her colleagues decline.
“As of right now, this is just a suggestion, and we’re all hoping it’s just temporarily. It’s sad because I have this beautiful class with all these great kids in it and we’ve worked really hard on our final projects and we’re not going to be able to do any of those things. It very disappointing, but I do understand. I obviously don't want to put any of my colleagues or students at risk and I want everyone to remain healthy,” says Peckham.
The final for the class revolved around creating a new idea that benefited the garden. With ideas ranging from creating a mini greenhouse to designing "uniforms" for those that use the garden, the project will have to be put on hold for now.
It’s evident that the garden closing will affect other garden activities and classes that use the space for their class lessons. “I'm not the only one that uses the space, a lot of the English and science teachers use it,” says Peckham.
Farm to Table, or Garden to Table, is a semester-long class that just started this year. The class focuses on talking about naturally grown food and food in general and has used the garden for class activities. The students have even started growing their own produce. Cami Minier (‘19) enjoys her time in the class, but she feels that having the garden close down takes away from the point of the class.
“Most of our classes, where we were most productive, were our outside classes and even Mrs. Peckham knew that. She always took us outside... It’s just a better environment outside than being inside all the time,” says Minier.
There are plans to move the garden to a different location for the time being. “We’ve talked about a few ideas like there's potential space right outside room 1990, it’s an idea that it's thrown around,” says Hurwitz.
With no definitive answer and tests left to conduct, the team from UCONN will be back. For now, Hurwitz has taken measures to ensure that those in the building are safe.