A forest of trees was planted at John D. Sutter Elementary School the morning of March 26. Twenty Forest Green Oaks and eight Washington Hawthorns were planted, replacing the once proud pines that had shaded the campus for more than half a century.
More than 30 trees–80 percent of the trees on the Sutter campus–were diseased and drought–stricken and had to be removed for safety. One had already toppled onto the fence on the Pomeroy Avenue side of the campus.
The drought–tolerant new trees were planted by the nonprofit Our City Forest, which grew the trees at its San Jose nursery and provided them at low cost. It took more than 40 workers–full–time OCF staff and volunteers, AmeriCorps volunteers, and Santa Clara Unified School District Facilities workers–to complete the planting by noon.
A tree ceremony began the morning, with Sutter students, faculty, alumni and SCUSD officials gathered to participate in the planting and learn about trees.
“The event originated from my feeling that the community needed to celebrate the new trees… and to center it around the life sciences so students can learn about the trees in our community and how we need to care for them,” writes Sutter principal Michael Fong in an email. “I wanted to the share the history of the trees with the students and how the trees were of such major importance to the school and neighborhood.”
“…When the trees were removed, everyone had a sense of loss and I wanted to make sure that the trees would be remembered and [we could] begin celebrating the new ones … I wanted to make sure the community could heal from the loss of the trees,” writes Fong.
“The trees that were here were 55 years old,” points out second grader Matty.
“[When the trees were cut down], I felt a little bit sad and that we wouldn't have enough oxygen,” says first grader Haley.
The students assisted in the tree planting by putting soil around the trees. Each class decorated and labeled a cross bar to support the tree that they will nurture on the 10.7–acre campus at 3200 Forbes Ave.; a gift of the Woodhams family prior to school construction that began in 1959. The students also contributed items to a time capsule that will be planted on campus.
“The trees are fantastic. They help the air,” says second grader Sean.
“It's a great day to plant trees and see growth in our students as well,” says SCUSD Board President Albert Gonzalez, attending the ceremony with Board members Jodi Muirhead and Andrew Ratermann.
“It was sad to see the trees that graced the campus for 55 years go. However, today we are planting a new legacy and engaging our students in the process of renewal. These trees will be enjoyed for generations to come,” writes Ratermann in an email.
Myra Wagner, wife of the late Jay Wagner, former Sutter principal, also attended the ceremony.
“I was shocked when I came down the road and those trees were gone,” says Wagner. “It was a wonderful ceremony. The whole day was very well organized. I learned how to plant a tree. The kids and the adults learned–we all learned.”
Fong coordinated the event with SCUSD, thanking those instrumental in removing the old trees and planting the new ones: Superintendent Stanley Rose III; Mark Allgire, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services; Larry Adams, Director of School Bond Project; and Rod Cardin, Facilities Manager
“I feel special that our school gets to do this. It's awesome. I hope the trees have a long, happy life,” says second grader Micah.