JACKSON TWP. As in past winters, the juniors and seniors in the horticulture program at Jackson High School were busy in the greenhouse planting and growing a variety of spring and summer flowers for the district’s annual spring plant sale.

The students’ hard work and talents did result in a greenhouse full of vegetable plants, geraniums and more. Program instructor Roy Dria said this year the students worked through the year until their efforts were interrupted in mid-March by the shut down due to the pandemic.

“Our greenhouse had about half of the plants this year as we usually have for sale,” Dria said. “I have performed the lion's share of the plant and greenhouse maintenance since students have not been permitted back into the class, though many have offered. I enlisted the help of my wife and children to perform some very labor-intensive tasks, I would have had a very difficult time doing it without them. We did the work of 34 students for the last two months.”

This year, customers were asked to fill out order forms online and then pick them up May 12 at the greenhouse at Jackson High School. Customers drove up to the greenhouse where one of the volunteers came out to ask the person’s name and then brought out their order and loaded it in their cars.

“A team of administrators came up with the idea and guidelines for the sale to take place to help keep all people as safe as possible,” Dria said. “ When I was given the option, I was a little panicked at first, because I know the high number of community members that have been supporting this sale for many years. But with the help of my wife, Aimee (who is a Spanish teacher at Jackson High School), and two teacher friends who volunteered to help (Christy Harp, and Kristen MacDonald) , as well as my supervising principal (Matt Ziders) and an aide (Cortney Goodwin), we were able to make the process a success.”

There were about 220 orders that were picked up on the sale date. The money raised helps to pay for student’s professional organization membership, field trip costs, projects or equipment the students have an interest in completing or acquiring in order to enhance their learning and educational experience and other items.

Dria said his students have been able to continue their education for the past few months through online learning.

“We were fortunate to have an online platform already set up as part of our districts 1:1 initiative and paper reduction goal,” Dria said. “This has allowed me to transition to online learning efficiently and nearly seamlessly. Students are given projects, problems, lectures and assessments online. They have adapted and done well with the challenge, but we all agree, we would rather be in school doing a lot more hands on activities and a lot less computer work.

“From the feedback I’ve received from students, they really miss the social and hands-on aspect of school. Those are items that a screen just cannot replace.  While school and teachers are sometimes taken for granted or pushed to the background of a student’s success, I think the students really have come to realize what a big part of their life school and teachers have been.”

The horticulture program provides students with knowledge and hands-on experience to help them enter the workforce or continue on to college. The program provides a foundation in Plant and Horticultural Sciences, Greenhouse and Nursery Management, Landscape Systems Management, and Turf Science and Management, Landscape Hardscapes, and an Agriculture and Environmental Systems Capstone Project.

Students are also introduced to Urban Forestry and Landscape Systems Management, Floral Design and Marketing. Students earn a science credit by taking this course, which counts towards an Honors Diploma, and are exempt from a fine arts credit and personal finance credit if they complete the Horticulture program.

Dria is always appreciative of the community support the program receives from through the December sale and the spring plant sale, but he is especially thankful for the support this year.

“I am very proud to be a part of this great community and raise my children here,” Dria said. “I would like to take another moment to thank the administrators for their support behind the scenes, my family and teacher friends for their help to make this a success and the strong support from the community, year after year.”