Webster Elementary School Project

by Lisa Mascaro

Staff Writer for The Outlook

August 30, 1996

Scott Halley spent Saturday nearly knee deep in dirt at Webster Elementary School in Malibu, just as he had all summer building a park for the students. It was a dirty job, but if volunteers didn't do it, who would? "A lot of our kids go to school here" said Halley, whose daughter Avaryl, will be a fifth grader at the school. "It's nice. It's a little give back to the community." As schools fling open their doors next week to thousands of children on the Westside, they'll be ready with a little help from their friends.

Days before the cafeteria starts dishing out lunches and teachers start dishing out homework, legions of volunteers will have spruced up campuses from Malibu to Ocean Park in time for the youngsters' arrival. Parents, principles and a few school children have been tugging up weeds, raking leaves, cleaning classrooms and sweeping out summer cobwebs to make schools as pretty as possible. The makeover at Webster was among the most striking.

A Garden Springs Forth

There, a yard that for decades has been nothing more than a field of dirt has been transformed into a botanical playground. Pathways lead children to a scent garden with sweet smelling plants, a topiary garden of whimsical creatures, and areas with native plants, birdhouses and other themes. A brook runs along the western edge of the garden, and an outdoor amphitheater will allow classes to be held outside in the sunshine.

Looming over the entire enclave is a generations-old tree with it's many shade giving branches. "Poet's Park" as it is to be called, took 14 Saturdays to build, plus months of planning. Because the school raised only $15,000 of the $70,000 to $80,000 needed for the project, the Malibu Association of Contractors stepped in to do the job for free, said Principle Phil Cott, who watched the park come to life Saturday with green plants and bright flowers. "A lot of us grew up out here," said contractor Bill Kane who attended Webster school as a child. When he heard about the project, he signed up his company, Kane Construction, to help and was building planters Saturday as he had been much of the summer. "We've seen a lot of changes in the community. It's good to see some things still here --like the school."