Students, staff and volunteers remodel courtyard

Posted on: Jun 15, 2022

DHS students, staff members and community volunteers gathered on Saturday, June 11, to begin the process of turning a re-imagined courtyard space into a reality.

The courtyard on the east side of the high school has allowed windows and natural light for interior classrooms since that portion of the building was constructed in 2000, but the space has not otherwise served any particular purpose. Filled with river rock, a storm sewer and little else, it has not exactly been a useful place for activities.

But thanks to some creative thinking, a willing group of volunteers and new state grant funding, that has begun to change. Plans developed this spring to create a safe outdoor environment for students in special education programs to take sensory breaks and calming breaks, and to complete functional tasks.

“The idea spurred from wanting to find additional work experience opportunities for our students in Work Seminar classes since they had less opportunities during the pandemic, and to provide a safe space for our students with differing abilities to take sensory breaks,” said district Special Education Coordinator Angela Lauderbaugh. “We had some students that really enjoy being outside but don’t have a safe space to do that at the high school.”

Funding for the project came from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which provides state funds to help increase vocational and life skills programming for students receiving special education services.

Student involvement has been integral to the project from the start. Earlier this year students in the special education program measured the courtyard and created scale drawings, designing the courtyard via CAD, and pricing out items to make sure the cost stayed within the grant coverage.

Students in Work Seminar classes spent time in May installing drain tile and landscape timbers, and installation of a finished turf surface with volunteer assistance occurred on Saturday, June 11.

“The first phase of our courtyard project wouldn’t have happened without the help of many people,” said Lauderbaugh. “We still have work to do but I am really proud of what we were all able to accomplish.”

Next steps for the project will be to equip the turf area with a swing, sensory materials and functional activities that help increase students’ self-help and daily living skills. Examples could include gardening or assembling items for vocational practice. To that end, treated wood has been provided for student construction of planters or other features in the fall.


Special thanks to: 

  •  Josh Tierney, Lora Voight, Martin Lira Landa and Barry Voight for planning and organizing the project, bringing in equipment and working the whole day Saturday. 
  • Tierney and his Work Seminar students for prepping the area, laying the drain tile and pricing out product.
  • Lora Voight and her math students for measuring the courtyard and drafting drawings of the space with the dimensions.
  • Lira Landa and the custodial staff for the significant help they gave in cutting and hauling the turf into the courtyard.
  • Matt Schoen for getting the work crew pizza. 
  • Mary Reeder for help with grant writing and financial planning.
  • Delano Rental for borrowing volunteers a compactor for the day.
  • Dwayne Ganzel, community member and parent to two former Delano students, for operating the Bobcat.
  • Jennifer, Liam and Jules Vesely for volunteering their time on Saturday and bringing the work crew snacks and water.
  • Sean Peterson, Nick Moore and the Delano football coaches and players who came to volunteer.
  • June 11 volunteers not already named above included Blake Nemec, Jackson Stewart, Owen Dickhausen, Jennifer Gilliand, Luke Gilliand, Bjorn Stewart, Drew Huotari, Luke Tuchtenhagen and Amy Voss.

Post Categories: High School