The area near the entrance is often a hub of activity as students wait after school for parents, team buses and friends.
But until recently there was a severe lack of seating. A new welcome wall offers a practical solution. It adds several seats and at the same time furthers a recent drive to spruce up the campus.
“I think it’s very beautiful,” high school principal Gary Gula said. “It’s a great addition to the school.”
The wall, built by Jim Volovski of in Canton, was a collaborative effort of several groups.
Spearheading the whole effort was the "virtual" Canton High School Parent Teacher Organization with help from the Canton Middle School PTO and student councils at both schools. Some students assisted in the effort as well and the Board of Education gave the ultimate approval.
The bulk of the cost, $4,000, came from student parking fees. The student councils chipped in $180 each to make up the balance.
It’s one of the latest and perhaps largest efforts by the PTO to give the campus a facelift with maintenance-free beautification projects.
Laurie McKenna said the goal is to create more of a campus feel. She said the wall gives a nice look that fits right in.
“We can replicate this look everywhere,” McKenna said.
But the wall differs in many ways from most of the PTO projects. In turn, the PTO is not your typical school support organization.
There’s no dues, no fundraisers, no meetings and no formal membership. The head organizer Pat Maloy even shies away from the term president, preferring coordinator instead.
McKenna and Kristin First are two master gardeners who have been working closely with Maloy, who also taps into a growing army of volunteers willing to purchase a few items, transport some goods or spend a few hours getting their hands dirty.
“Our goal is to continue with projects around the school,” Maloy said.
Recently, for example, Maloy and other volunteers spent a couple of days putting up fall decorations and planting mums. It added a festive atmosphere to the school for Spirit Week, Alumni Weekend and an upcoming visit by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for its periodic accreditation process.
For the decorations Maloy received cornstalks from farmer Scott Perry and her cousin Paul Guillmette transported them to the school. donated plants and she, McKenna and other volunteers planted and decorated.
The parking fees have come in handy and the PTO will take any donations people want to send to the school but by and large most projects simply involve small purchases or time from willing community members. When she needs something, Maloy simply alerts those 75 or so people who have signed up via email@example.com, hence the designation of a virtual PTO.
“When we need something we just put out an e-mail,” she said. “The goal is to help the teachers, the school, the kids and lead by example and involve the community at the high school.”
Maloy said she’s had enough of the typical PTO fundraisers, meetings and other aspects at the lower school levels.
“You name it we’ve done it,” Maloy said. “We don’t want to do that anymore.”
But at the same time she plans to go well beyond the current efforts.
“It took me a whole year to figure out what exactly we could do,” Maloy said. “I didn’t want to jump out and fail so I’m turning up the flame now.”
Many of her plans revolve around involving other members of the community. One is the kids right at the school.
“We're using the community as a resource and we want to get the kids involved as a resource because there’s leadership skills here we want to develop,” she said.
Maloy also feels the seniors in town are another untapped resource that could become more involved and be mentors for the students.
Maloy already has her eye out for the next project, a small fenced in area on the side of the school.
But already the principals at the schools are thrilled with the effort. The wall is both practical and beautiful, said middle school principal Joe Scheideler.
The "welcome wall is a wonderful addition to our two schools and the result of parents and students and the schools working together,” he said.