Sequim High School agriculture teachers, from left, Bill McFarlen, Lynette Jenné, and Steve Mahitka, along with Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, stand in the City of Sequim’s greenhouse where more than 130 flower baskets await going on Washington Street on June 1. Basket sponsorship supports the high school’s plant sale and the downtown Christmas lights program. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Sequim High School agriculture teachers, from left, Bill McFarlen, Lynette Jenné, and Steve Mahitka, along with Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, stand in the City of Sequim’s greenhouse where more than 130 flower baskets await going on Washington Street on June 1. Basket sponsorship supports the high school’s plant sale and the downtown Christmas lights program. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

SHS students, staff finish flower baskets despite school closure

Sponsors sought to support plant sale, Christmas lights programs

Keeping the annual flower baskets program along Washington Street flourishing this year became a school-wide effort at Sequim High School.

Agriculture students began working on the flower baskets in early March but the 2019 novel coronavirus threat closed schools on March 17. That left a little less than half the baskets unfinished.

SHS agriculture teacher Steve Mahitka said students “cranked them out before school closed,” making about 75 of the 132 baskets.

With a hefty load left, Mahitka and fellow agriculture class teachers Lynette Jenné and Bill McFarlen enlisted help from fellow staffers. In two days, 14 teachers and paraeducators worked to finish the baskets, lining and planting baskets filled with geraniums and petunias.

McFarlen, the Sequim FFA advisor, said agriculture teachers had students plant three different colors of red, lipstick and raspberry to hold a competition of sorts between classes. COVID-19, however, put an end to any potential competition.

He said the students can still see their baskets with their colors across Washington Street.

Each school year, as many as 300 students participate in agriculture, horticulture and FFA classes in the greenhouse and classroom space, the teachers said.

Sponsorship

Emily Westcott, coordinator for the flower basket program, said the 132 baskets will be placed out on June 1 by City of Sequim staff.

She is seeking sponsorships for the flower baskets at $100 per basket — or $50 split between sponsors — by calling her at 360-670-6294.

Last year, the fundraiser earned about $12,000 with half of the funds supporting the agriculture’s supplies for its annual plant sale, and the other helping Westcott pay for lights and supplies for Christmas lights in downtown Sequim.

“We’re really concerned about sponsors because many of the people who have sponsored in the past are businesses who have been hit hard (by the pandemic),” Westcott said.

She said people can sponsor a basket on behalf of a business and/or split the cost with a friend.

The flower baskets will go up through mid-October along Washington Street, and city crews will drive through every-other-day to water the baskets in the early morning.

Organizers started the Sequim High flower basket program in 1996 to support the FFA with about 50 baskets.

McFarlen said they look to replace the greenhouse on the City of Sequim’s property off South Second Avenue because snow warped the ceiling of the 1960s structure last winter. Completed flower baskets are stored in the greenhouse prior to going out on city streets.

McFarlen said they are seeking grants for the project.

Sequim teachers Michelle Mahitka and Taylor Thorson help line flower baskets in the Sequim High School’s greenhouse to help finish the project started by Sequim High students. Prior to school closing due to COVID-19, students finished about 75 baskets while teachers and paraeducators completed more than 50 baskets after school closed to go along Washington Street starting in June. Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka

Sequim teachers Michelle Mahitka and Taylor Thorson help line flower baskets in the Sequim High School’s greenhouse to help finish the project started by Sequim High students. Prior to school closing due to COVID-19, students finished about 75 baskets while teachers and paraeducators completed more than 50 baskets after school closed to go along Washington Street starting in June. Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka

Sequim teacher Kelly Bell helps plant one of 130-plus flower baskets to run along Washington Street from June-October. Students made about 75 baskets prior to school closing and teachers and paraeducators helped make more than 50 after school closed. Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka

Sequim teacher Kelly Bell helps plant one of 130-plus flower baskets to run along Washington Street from June-October. Students made about 75 baskets prior to school closing and teachers and paraeducators helped make more than 50 after school closed. Photo courtesy of Steve Mahitka

Agriculture teacher Steve Mahitka and Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, assess some of the baskets on May 22 before setting them for delivery along Washington Street on June 1. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Agriculture teacher Steve Mahitka and Emily Westcott, flower basket coordinator, assess some of the baskets on May 22 before setting them for delivery along Washington Street on June 1. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

More than 130 baskets go out on June 1 in the City of Sequim. The flower basket program started in 1996 as a fundraiser for Sequim High School’s FFA and sponsorships support both the school’s plant sale and Sequim’s downtown Christmas lights. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

More than 130 baskets go out on June 1 in the City of Sequim. The flower basket program started in 1996 as a fundraiser for Sequim High School’s FFA and sponsorships support both the school’s plant sale and Sequim’s downtown Christmas lights. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

More than 130 baskets go out on June 1 in the City of Sequim. The flower basket program started in 1996 as a fundraiser for Sequim High School’s FFA and sponsorships support both the school’s plant sale and Sequim’s downtown Christmas lights. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

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