By JEN CARDINES
Students, faculty, school administration, and PTO members gathered outside Strong Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 2 for the official opening of the outdoor classroom.
The project was started by the Strong PTO back in March, and after months of planning and proposals to the Board of Education, broke ground on Aug. 5.
PTO co-presidents Angelique Bilodeau and Jenn Kocse, along with PTO board member Lauren Marino, presented the final product to an enthusiastic crowd just before the school day began. Students held balloons and greeted incoming people with a smile.
The outdoor classroom contains four large tables under a shady tree that can hold up to 32 students. Officials from the PTO board said that Steve Bessette with Advantage Home Improvement did all of the work and was very easy to work with throughout the project.
The new space ties into the district mantra of “anytime, anywhere learning.” Superintendent Tim Connellan said that the classroom is “indicative of the support of parents in our community. It gives an emphasis on personalized learning.”
Principal Melissa Barbuto said that she thanks the PTO for their time and money, and thinks that it will be a great space for students. “It’s a different approach,” she said.
BOE member Terry Lombardi, who represents Strong Elementary on the Board of Education, was also present for the event. She sat at the tables with a handful of students and talked to them about the importance of learning, inside the classroom and out.
“I’ve seen the vision evolve to this,” Lombardi said about the project’s completion.
In her speech, Bilodeau said, “It is always nice to know that parents, teachers, and administrators can work together to build something for our children that will better their experiences in school and create lifelong memories.”
The PTO had been saving money for a project, and this fit their budget and the school’s needs. A plaque is positioned at the front of the outdoor space, with a dedication from the 2016 PTO, which reads, “May this outdoor classroom be a place for all to learn and work together without the limitations of walls and ceilings. Instead, may you be inspired by the beauty and creativity of nature.”
The classroom is available for use this school year.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.