Education column: Clovis schools implementing xeriscaping

The final curtain has come down on the school year, and students are well into their summer activities. Meantime, Clovis Municipal Schools Operations folks have moved into high gear, and it is their moment — pun intended — to shine.

Across the district at our school sites and other buildings, things are happening. Gene Bieker, executive director of operations for the Clovis schools, took some time recently to talk about the activities taking place during the summer.

Certain summer maintenance activities are standard. Floors everywhere, for example, are important because of the unbelievable amount of constant traffic during the school year.

“Virtually all floors are stripped and waxed every summer,” said Bieker. This alone is a formidable job, taking days, even with the heavy-duty professional equipment used for the job.

Then, a large number of locations have carpeting. While standard carpet cleaning takes place, full-blown shampooing at each site is done in alternating years, based upon the work rotation schedule.

“The preparation takes quite a bit of time, before crews can even begin. Theoretically, all the furniture will have been moved out into the halls,” Bieker said.

After room cleaning, all of the furniture and other room contents are moved back into the rooms, so that work on the seemingly endless corridors and common areas can begin.

Meantime, special crews have been assembled for outside work and remain busy throughout the summer. Grounds-keeping crews maintain the extensive landscaping surrounding the buildings of the Clovis schools; irrigation crews run and maintain the systems at the various sites.

“In fact, we are gradually moving more and more towards xeriscaping at our school locations. This type of landscaping is so much easier and more economical to maintain and can look very nice,” Bieker said.

After Bieker shared some lovely examples of xeriscaped areas at some of our locations, I decided to learn more about this relatively new concept in landscaping.

The term, sometimes misspelled “zeroscaping,” was coined in 1981, defining water conservation methods, in fact, but it encompasses conceptually many of the design components of traditional landscaping.

The concept was developed in Denver, Colo., in response to water shortages. “Xeros” is the Greek word for dry, and the idea is, not to have “zero” plants — admittedly, what I first thought — but rather outside areas designed and planted with native vegetation to provide for as natural a landscaped area as possible, requiring much less maintenance than traditional landscaping, while offering aesthetic appeal.

According to the Xeriscape Council of New Mexico, an education and project oriented group (http://www.xeriscapenm.com/xeriscape_principles.php), “studies have shown that as much as 70 percent of water from a municipal water system can be attributed to residential use” and of that, “almost half is used to maintain landscaping.”

We (in the West) have traditionally used plants from England, Japan, or the east coast of the US for landscaping, however, many of these are non-native to the higher, dryer regions of the west, and maintenance requires considerable supplemental moisture.

Hmmmm…heading outside now, to re-think my own grounds.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at cindy.kleyn-kennedy@clovis-schools.org.