Sequim High School agriculture teachers, from left, Bill McFarlen, Lynette Jenné, and Steve Mahitka, along with Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, stand in the City of Sequim’s greenhouse before flower baskets were placed on Washington Street in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim High School agriculture teachers, from left, Bill McFarlen, Lynette Jenné, and Steve Mahitka, along with Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, stand in the City of Sequim’s greenhouse before flower baskets were placed on Washington Street in Sequim. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Flower baskets no matter what

SHS students, staff finish flower baskets despite school closure

SEQUIM — Keeping the annual flower baskets program along Washington Street flourishing this year became a school-wide effort at Sequim High School.

Agriculture students began working on the flower baskets in early March but the 2019 novel coronavirus threat closed schools on March 17. That left a little less than half the baskets unfinished.

SHS agriculture teacher Steve Mahitka said students “cranked them out before school closed,” making about 75 of the 132 baskets.

With a hefty load left, Mahitka and fellow agriculture class teachers Lynette Jenné and Bill McFarlen enlisted help from fellow staffers. In two days, 14 teachers and paraeducators worked to finish the baskets, lining and planting baskets filled with geraniums and petunias.

Sequim teacher Kelly Bell helps plant one of the flower baskets now on Washington Street through October. (Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka)

Sequim teacher Kelly Bell helps plant one of the flower baskets now on Washington Street through October. (Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka)

McFarlen, the Sequim FFA advisor, said agriculture teachers had students plant three different colors of red to hold a competition of sorts between classes.

COVID-19, however, put an end to any potential competition.

He said the students can still see their baskets with their colors across Washington Street.

Each school year, as many as 300 students participate in agriculture, horticulture and FFA classes in the greenhouse and classroom space, the teachers said.

The flower basket program was started in 1996 as a fundraiser for Sequim High School’s FFA and sponsorships support both the school’s plant sale and Sequim’s downtown Christmas lights. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

The flower basket program was started in 1996 as a fundraiser for Sequim High School’s FFA and sponsorships support both the school’s plant sale and Sequim’s downtown Christmas lights. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sponsorship

The 132 baskets were put up last Monday by City of Sequim staff.

Emily Westcott, coordinator for the flower basket program, is seeking sponsorships for the flower baskets at $100 per basket — or $50 split between sponsors — by calling her at 360-670-6294.

Last year, the fundraiser earned about $12,000 with half of the funds supporting the agriculture’s supplies for its annual plant sale, and the other helping Westcott pay for lights and supplies for Christmas lights in downtown Sequim.

Sequim teachers Michelle Mahitka and Taylor Thorson help line flower baskets in the Sequim High School’s greenhouse to help finish the project started by Sequim High students. Prior to school closing due to COVID-19, students finished about 75 baskets while teachers and paraeducators completed more than 50 baskets after school closed, (Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka)

Sequim teachers Michelle Mahitka and Taylor Thorson help line flower baskets in the Sequim High School’s greenhouse to help finish the project started by Sequim High students. Prior to school closing due to COVID-19, students finished about 75 baskets while teachers and paraeducators completed more than 50 baskets after school closed, (Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka)

“We’re really concerned about sponsors because many of the people who have sponsored in the past are businesses who have been hit hard (by the pandemic),” Westcott said.

She said people can sponsor a basket on behalf of a business and/or split the cost with a friend.

The flower baskets will go up through mid-October along Washington Street, and city crews will drive through every-other-day to water the baskets in the early morning.

Organizers started the Sequim High flower basket program in 1996 to support the FFA with about 50 baskets.

McFarlen said organizers are seeking grants to replace the greenhouse on the City of Sequim’s property off South Second Avenue because snow warped the ceiling of the 1960s structure last winter. Completed flower baskets are stored in the greenhouse each year prior to going out on city streets.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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