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Improvements never stop at Citrus High
Students learn life skills while working on projects
Beautification improvements at Citrus High School will never stop as long as Russ Brandt has a say.
The instructor has already seen his students work on everything from a waterfall, to rock walls and walkways, to chicken coops and green houses, to storage rooms, to a new weight room.
But the students in his classes — Greenhouse Management, Nursery Practice and Landscaping Designs — are anything but ordinary. For years, the students have been beautifying the campus. In addition, they have made 800-pound table-tennis tables, benches, rock walkways, a covered patio and are in the process of making a covered weight room.
“It’ll be completed before the school year ends,” said Chazz Jones, a junior at the school.
“It’s exciting. It’s going to have mirrors and will be nice. I can’t wait for it to be complete.”
The current weight room is an old shipping container.
“If we have three people in there, it’s crowded,” said Ricky Garcia, a junior. “We’ll be able to get at least 10 to 15 people in the new [building.] It’s been exciting being a part of this. We’ve been doing a lot of interesting things.”
Most of the work on the new building was completed by two students — Justus Hearn and Robert Ward.
Brandt agreed with them, saying the two students did all the roofing.
“We welded it all together,” Ward said. “There’s a lot of blood and frustration in that building.”
On Thursday, Hearn and Alfredo Ibarra listened as Brandt explained about welding metal next to what will be an electrical outlet.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Ibarra said about the final product as he sat in the old weight room. “It is going to be so much nicer than this.”
The classes are interesting and offer the students life-long skills.
Jacob Martinez enjoyed the greenhouse and nursery classes so much it prompted him to build his own fiberglass greenhouse at home.
“We grew vegetables, strawberries and watermelons,” he said. “I’m not much into the plumbing and electronics, but I like his gardening class and the greenhouse classes.”
Additional projects can be seen all around. Rock walls and rock walkways adorn the campus.
Students can also be seen working in a large greenhouse, tending to vegetables and fruits, working on a variety of berries growing on trellises, or mixing and pouring cement for one of the many walkways or walls, or installing sprinklers. In addition, the students care for the school’s fields — keeping the lawn “golf-course green.”
The students also completed a working patio area, and its 84-foot-long roofed area that extends over the table-tennis play area — providing students shelter on rainy days. A big school barn is planned next.
“We already cut all the pipes. We need to start digging all the holes by hand,” Brandt said.
“It’s all employable skills. I also teach them how to manage a business. We service all our own tools, sharpen all our tools. I’m hoping we can add welding in the near future.”
A waterfall greets students, staff and visitors at the entrance to the school — all of it built by students three years ago.
“It has 10,000 gallons of water an hour going through it and all of it was done by hand,” Brandt said. “It’s on a concrete block. It’s not against the wall. There are 65,000 pounds of boulders and it is all rubber-lined. The students take care of all the plants and bushes surrounding it.”
Brandt expressed gratitude for Luis Nursery in Farmersville for donating all the seed and a lot of the bushes.
The teacher’s dedication has impressed school Principal Fernando Carrera.
“I am amazed at his energy, the connection he makes with the students and the amount of respect from students and staff he gets,” Carrera said. “He’s definitely one of our leaders — a spokesperson, with lots of good ideas and always moving the campus forward. He’s always on the go and is often the first one here and the last one to go.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.