ADA violation shuts down Bio Garden

By Nijzel Dotson, Advocate Staff

Middle College High School was forced to say goodbye to its Bio Garden of over 10 years last August right before the fall 2018 semester began.

According to Middle College High School Principal Finny Prak, the students were informed that the location of the garden was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Although no students who helped take care of the garden has a disability, legal action could’ve been taken because access to the garden is limited to walking through a grassy patch of landscaping.

The Bio Garden was a MCHS tradition, located behind the Biological Sciences Building. It was maintained by students on at least one day of each week in a semester. Maintenance took place most Tuesdays during the spring 2018 semester and Saturdays for many semesters prior.

This included planting seeds, removing weeds, turning over soil, watering plants and fertilizing soil.

Students who tended the garden were members of MCHS’s Bio Club.

The Bio Garden chairperson Dan Hernandez said at the beginning of the fall semester the Bio Club was planning how they would prepare the garden for the upcoming week when they were told that they wouldn’t be able to use the space anymore.

Danilo Baoas, the MCHS teacher who oversaw the Bio Garden said, “The loss of the garden has affected the actual learning of the students. Doing activities in the Bio Garden helped with the application of processes, such as photosynthesis and the cellular respiration of plants.”

Baoas said he used the Bio Garden as a means of educating his biology students on concepts he teaches in class.

He allowed his students to use the garden as a space to work on plant-based projects that he assigns each year.

Baos acknowledges the importance of plants for the environment and believes that they should be respected.

He said he is very disappointed that they had to shut down the garden.

Bio Club President Kelsey Hetherington is also unhappy with having to give up a Bio Garden they’ve worked so hard to maintain.

“More could have been done. There could have been compromise,” she said.

Hetherington believes maintaining the garden had a significant impact on MCHS students. She said it “taught responsibility” and “brought people together.”

She also said having a healthy garden cared for by students was a beneficial addition to the campus as a whole.

Since the announcement of the garden’s cancellation, the Bio Club has lost many of its members.

A club that once was over 30 students strong has been diminished to about 11 in just a few months.

The Bio Club has considered relocating the garden but has not been able to find a new spot as of yet.

“It’s one of the few things MCHS students have here to show how much we care about the environment and the campus. It also lets us work as a community,” Hetherington said.