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Rep. Bob Buch spearheads effort to spruce up Chinook Elementary School

(ANCHORAGE) - Chinook Elementary School will receive a badly-needed facelift, thanks to Representative Bob Buch (D-Anchorage) and Chinook students, parents, the Chinook PTA, teachers, community leaders, and everyday neighbors.  On May 15, 2010, Rep. Buch's volunteer force - armed with shovels, rakes, and paintbrushes - will spruce up their school in a project dubbed "A New Look For Chinook."

"The school has become unsightly," Rep. Buch said. "The building and grounds are rundown from weather and age.  We need to give this school a little attention."

The school's sign is cracked, broken, and needs paint.  The shrubs -what few have not been eaten by moose-are scrawny and barely alive after being stripped by the weather and trampled by pedestrians.   The entryway is visually uninviting.

The principal and PTA of Chinook Elementary School asked Rep. Buch for a capital grant to improve the grounds around the school entrance.  He succeeded in securing small grants in the state capital budget in 2007 and 2008, only to see both appropriations vetoed by then-Governor Sarah Palin.

One veto was an unwelcome surprise, but the second was too much.  Rep. Buch and his volunteer force decided to take matters into their own hands. 

"Something had to be done, and we decided it was time to just do it ourselves," Rep. Buch said.  He gathered the Chinook PTA and principal and proposed that they plan a volunteer day where parents, students, teachers, and community members spruce up the school.

"Everyone is excited by the idea," Anita Stevens, Chinook's principal said.  "A volunteer steering committee is helping make all the necessary arrangements, and Anchorage School District Carol Comeau has assigned Glen Nielsen as the school district's liaison to the project."

The Chinook Student Council voted unanimously to support A New Look for Chinook, and will work with the PTA to organize and supervise the day.  The project has been approved by the Anchorage School District's Maintenance and Facilities Division.  People are stepping up from all over the community to help.

Elise Huggins, owner of Earthscape, an Anchorage landscape architecture firm, is volunteering her time and expertise to develop a simple landscaping plan for the school's entry.

"Elise helped us choose shrubs that will survive the winter, and that the moose won't eat," Rep. Buch said. "She also gave us a design for a new entrance in the future, which hopefully we'll be able to secure the funding for."

"I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the Principal and Rep. Buch's office, so we surprised them with information on planting shrubs as well as bigger picture ideas that may someday make a wonderful improvement for the community," Huggins said. "This is a school that needs community TLC and the shrubs are a great first step."

"We are excited by the opportunity to partner with the PTA, local community and Chinook student body on this project," said Carol Comeau, Superintendent of Anchorage schools.  "My hope is that this will create a sense of school pride among the students that will continue long past May 15th."

Rep. Buch and the Chinook PTA are soliciting contributions of shrubs, landscaping materials, paint, and other supplies from area businesses and individuals.  Anyone who would like to contribute materials or volunteer should contact Rep. Buch's office at (907) 465-4968, (907) 269-0117, or at Representative_Bob_Buch@legis.state.ak.us or Sheri Young, the Chinook School PTA President, at (907) 742-6700.

"A New Look For Chinook" is set for Saturday, May 15th at Chinook Elementary School, 3101 West 88th Avenue, from 10 am-2 pm.  All volunteer participants are welcome; bring appropriate tools and work gloves, if available.

"This is as an opportunity to not only improve the look of Chinook, but to lift the spirit of the school," Rep. Buch said.  "The kids are getting involved in a hands-on way, working alongside parents and teachers to make their school a better place.  This isn't just a school project, it's about building community and a sense of pride."

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