Mansfield school given tree grant

COVINGTON - Several Mansfield Elementary School staff members, as well as parents and other community members, spent part of the holiday break planting trees on the school's playground.

On Tuesday, a handful of volunteers that included school staff, parents, city and county workers, employees at Bartlett Tree Experts and members of the Service Guild of Covington and Hands on Newton planted about 40 new trees that were bought through a $5,000 grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission's Making the Shade program.

Since 2005, the Georgia Forestry Commission has provided tree-shaded playgrounds to more than a dozen schools throughout the state.

This year, Mansfield Elementary School first-grade teacher Alicia Lindsey decided she would apply for the grant for the school after talking to Beryl Budd, a community forester at the GFC who also serves on the Mansfield Tree Board with Lindsey.

"Our playground gets so hot sometimes," Lindsey said. "We start school at the end of July, and we have had to close the playground several times because the equipment heats up to such a high temperature."

She also said the cleaner air from the addition of trees could help students with asthma problems, among other health benefits.

"It made sense on a lot of levels," she said.

Once the GFC notified the school that they won the grant, the school's hard work wasn't over - Mansfield Elementary and GFC enlisted the help of school families and other community members to get the project complete. By the time the project got under way Tuesday, the city of Mansfield had installed a new water line so the school would be able to water the new trees and several organizations and businesses had volunteered their time and equipment to get the trees in the ground.

"This town wants to be a Tree City, and when you have a community school, you can do things like this to help," said school Principal G. W. Davis. "I'm proud to be a part of it."

Budd said he has helped plant many trees at the school over the years, but this is the largest project completed at one time.

"This is going to be a major part of the landscape," Budd said. "It takes a lot of folks to come together to make this work."

The project includes planting a variety of nearly 40 trees, including several oak, maple, myrtle, cherry and elm trees which produce an array of colors and blooms that may grow 60- to 80-feet tall and have wide canopies to provide shade to individuals and equipment.

"I tried to go for trees you wouldn't see as often," Lindsey said.

She said the trees won't only help beautify the school's landscape and reduce health and safety concerns, it also will give students - and staff - an opportunity to learn about trees.

"It ties in with our curriculum," Lindsey said. "Each grade level will study trees and their benefits."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Student Health Benefits from trees on the playground:

· Reduced surface temperatures of play equipment and surfaces, which can cause serious and painful burns

· Reduced sun exposure and ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin damage

· Reduced susceptibility to ground-level ozone on hot days

· Reduced symptoms of ADHD

· Reduced risk for asthma and lung-related illnesses by keeping the air clean

Source: Georgia Forestry Commission