Cherry Hill High School West’s Memorial Garden needs extensive work, but should be ready for re-dedication by spring.
In a phone conversation with The Sun on Sept. 19, Cherry Hill Public Schools Superintendent Joseph Meloche said the district is just starting to organize the effort, but the end goal is in sight.
“As of right now, we don’t have a definite plan in place. We’ll work with the facilities managers and students, and we also plan to sit down and talk with all who want to be involved in the project, in about a month or so. We will also contact alumni to support the endeavor as well,” he said.
In a statement issued on Sept. 12 regarding the garden, Meloche said:
“Members of our community this week raised concerns regarding the Memorial Garden at Cherry Hill High School West. I would like to assure everyone that the garden is in the process of being restored after years of neglect. District-wide, our buildings and grounds staff have been making changes to our landscaping to enhance the security and safety of our buildings by removing landscaping overgrowth and aging trees which present a danger to those on the property.
“Additionally, like the physical structures of our schools, the landscape requires maintenance and care for it to thrive. This, at times, requires pruning and replacing. The grove in the courtyard between E-wing and F-wing at High School West had fallen into severe disrepair during the past 25 years – the benches are no longer usable and the plantings needed to be removed.”
As West, along with other district buildings and those throughout South Jersey, have been battered by particularly severe summer storms, Meloche said that cleanup can be challenging. The area between the two wings at West fell into such disrepair that, when the district looked at whether a simple cleanup was in order, a decision was made instead to start fresh rather than to just prune and trim.
Contrary to reports, Meloche also said that the stone marker in the garden, dedicated to members of the Class of 1993, was moved during this process – but not discarded. He would like to impress upon West alumni and all others concerned that the stone will be cleaned and will have a prominent place in the restored garden.
In addition, Meloche revealed both the school and the district will work with students and alumni in planning, designing and constructing a new seating area that honors the past, while providing a place for current students that is sustainable for the future.
“You know, August is not really the ideal time to plant bushes and things. We want those in the school community to be involved when the planting season comes back in the spring, so we’ll have an articulated plan ready to go,” he said.
“While I like to think I have a green thumb, I really don’t, so I want to leave it to the experts. I don’t have a specific month in mind but, I would expect the garden to be completed by the end of this school year,” Meloche concluded.