Cement Masons apprentices, signatory contractors help make school’s garden beds accessible to all

Patrick Henry Elementary students witness ‘coolest career ever’

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ALL: A group of Cement Masons Local 527 apprentices put the finishing touches on new cement pathways in the garden at Patrick Henry Elementary School in St. Louis. The pathways are safe, level and fully accessible to all students and nearby senior living residents. – Construction Forum photo

St. Louis – Students at Patrick Henry Elementary School and local community members can now move with ease around the school’s garden beds despite their level of mobility thanks to a group of Cement Masons Local 527 apprentices and the union’s signatory contractors.

In November, Diana Wilhold, of the Construction Forum, received a call from a former colleague asking if she knew of anyone who could help the school at 1220 N. 10th St. pour concrete pads between the garden beds so students with assistive walking devices and the nearby senior living residents could have access to tend to the garden.

Wilhold, who serves as the forum’s deputy executive director/COO, knew just who to reach out to: Scott Downs, Local 527 Joint Apprenticeship Training coordinator/instructor. Downs regularly gives his apprentices volunteer community projects in which they can learn by doing.

Downs met with school officials, mapped out a plan, rounded up a group of apprentices and contacted signatory contractors Vee Jay Cement Contracting, CECO and Western Ready-Mix.

“We really enjoyed connecting with the school,” Downs said. “I believe it will be an excellent opportunity to allow them adequate space to navigate around the garden beds. The apprentices enjoyed an opportunity to do something for the community and give every child the same opportunity to be out there.”

Downs said Vee Jay donated gravel for the subgrade, the machine to dig out the dirt and the dumpster to remove debris and CECO and Western Ready-Mix donated 12 yards of concrete.

Dr. Deborah Rogers, the school’s principal, told the Construction Forum in an article that school officials were “blown away” by the response. At first, she made inquiries to the administrators at St. Louis Public Schools and was told to get bids for the project. The first bid came in at $37,000 for materials alone, she explained. Patrick Henry’s entire capital budget is $27,000 per year.

“It was such a beautiful effort,” Rogers said of the work. “They were in our backyard showing the kids the coolest (career) ever. When the cement truck showed up, the kids completely lost it.”

She said that teachers at Patrick Henry studied concrete and ADA accessibility and integrated them into their teaching, and the students learned, “Why is it important for everyone to have access.”

Leanne White, St. Louis Public Schools Healthy Schools Program and AIM (Academics in Movement) director, told the Construction Forum that she could not thank Wilhelm and the Cement Masons enough for pulling together to complete the work.

“Now the students, staff and members of the Patrick Henry community have level, safe, beautiful cement pathways between each garden bed that are fully accessible to all, she said. They will become pathways to learning and discovery for our students for years to come.”

(Some information from the Construction Forum)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top