Lowe’s, Lewis Cass ISD team up to build sheds for elementary schools

CASS COUNTY — A local organization is teaming up with Niles Lowe’s to improve the outdoor learning capabilities for early childhood education in Cass County schools.
The Lewis Cass Intermediate School District Great Start Readiness Program and Lowe’s are working together to build five 8 feet long, 12 feet wide storage sheds at five Cass County Elementary Schools.
The GSRP is a free preschool program for 4-year-old children in Cass County that is guided by the Lewis Cass ISD. Chris Whitmire, director of early childhood education for the Lewis Cass ISD, oversees the GSRP for Cass County schools. Whitmire and Lowe’s store manager Craig Brechtel oversaw the shed project, which had been in the works for just over one month.
“We were just looking for some outdoor storage sheds,” Whitmire said. “Lowe’s learned that we had a great need throughout the county and that this would allow our preschool’s youngest learners, 4-year-olds, to be able to spend more time outdoors. They will help us build these sheds and deck them out completely so that we have a space in each of our preschool sites to help the kids learn. We’re very, very excited about this partnership. It’s just kind of a nice way to kick off the new school year and also be healthier and safer with regards to COVID.”
On Friday, GSRP teachers and Lowe’s employees installed sheds at Justus Gage Elementary and Patrick Hamilton Elementary in Dowagiac and Samuel Adams Elementary in Cassopolis. The group is also building sheds at Eagle Lake Elementary in Edwardsburg and Marcellus Elementary in Marcellus on Saturday.
The project was made possible by Lowe’s Hometown Heroes Program, a nationwide effort which encourages Lowe’s stores to adopt a project of their choice that meets the needs of its community.
“We’re very fortunate to work for a company that cares about the community and provides us the resources to do this,” Brechtel said. “It’s just absolutely wonderful to be able to support the teachers and the students. This one is particularly close to my heart too. I’ve got a family full of educators so it means a lot to be able to do this.”
“We’re really grateful to Lowe’s,” Whitmire said. “They have gone above and beyond to provide extra resources and extra manpower people here to help us build and paint, and we could not have in any way gotten this done without their care and support.”
The sheds will be installed just in time for the start of GSRP’s hybrid program on Monday. Cohorts of eight children will come into the schools two days a week for in-person instruction and will spend the other two days learning remotely from their homes.
“We were trying to get some sheds for some of our play areas because we wanted to be able to move the learning outside as much as possible,” Whitmire said.
According to Whitmire, GSRP teachers have spent the past few weeks creating virtual lessons for students for the virtual portion of the hybrid model.
“We also put out a home learning kit that was hand-delivered to each family,” she added. “We produced introductory lessons for them to know how to use that kit, and then all the lessons that we do in the remote learning model will tie in with that kit. Families will have the necessary materials at home until they’re ready to come back into the classroom.”

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