WILLIAMS, Ariz. - What is now a plain courtyard at Williams High School will soon be transformed into an outdoor native habitat, thanks to a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Science teacher Jessica Heisley applied for the Heritage Grant last fall and the Arizona Game and Fish Department awarded the $8,350 grant in March.
Heisley said the renovated courtyard will serve a dual purpose.
"It needs to be a native habitat area," she said. "We want to try to bring in the butterflies and the bees and the pollinators and just give little niches for creatures and critters to live, but also to be able to bring classes out there and kind of have an outdoor classroom area where we can congregate and students can eat lunch out there when it's done and the weather's nice."
Workers will start by leveling the courtyard and digging drainage ditches and water catchment systems.
"The way it is right now it's really just kind of a big cesspool when it rains," Heisley said.
Local nursery workers have recommended some native vegetation that will be planted in the courtyard.
"They put together a plant list for me of native plants that do really well in that kind of area," Heisley said. "They actually came and walked it with me, so they know kind of where to place certain plants and things."
The planting will have to wait until the city's level four water restrictions are lifted, which Heisley hopes will happen during the upcoming monsoon season.
Plans also call for a walkway to wind through the courtyard. The high school's construction class can help build picnic benches, birdfeeders, bird boxes and raised flowerbeds to go in the renovated courtyard. Heisley hopes to use recycled wood from the gym bleachers for these projects.
Before any of the work can start, a historic survey must be completed since the school is more than 50 years old. Heisley believes the survey will cost about $2,000, which must come from the district because the grant was approved as is.
Once the historical survey is completed, Heisley hopes to start on the groundwork for the new courtyard later this summer. She said the renovated courtyard will make a major difference at the school.
"It's like the heart of our school right there. So many classrooms look out on it, a lot of kids eat lunch out in that area, they walk by it, it's just right there in the middle," Heisley said. "It's just an eyesore right now. It would be nice to do something really productive with it and help beautify the campus a little bit."