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West Jordan Journal

Poinsettias not flourishing in greenhouse environment but students are

Dec 11, 2019 03:05PM ● By Jet Burnham

South Valley School won’t be selling poinsettias next year. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

This is the last year South Valley School students will be growing and selling poinsettia plants to the public. It’s become harder to grow healthy poinsettia plants in the 30-year-old greenhouse, which is in need of some repairs. Principal Rita Boullion said the current conditions limit how well the plants grow and how involved the students can be in the whole process. So, they are no longer a good fit for the program.

“If we start them from cuttings, we get them in July,” said Jennifer Miller, who runs the greenhouse program at South Valley School. “But our greenhouse does not work properly, so we get them in October because otherwise they don't grow properly.”

Boullion began to address the needed repairs when she became principal at the school a few months ago.

“We just need to consider what's the cost of the repairs that need to be done, what’s the timing for that to be done and what's the priority for that?” Boullion said.

Fortunately, there’s more to the greenhouse program than growing and selling poinsettias. The program’s main purpose is to provide job training for ninth through 12th grade students with special needs. Currently, there are 51 students learning work skills in the greenhouse program.

“This program is like a job,” Miller said. “We are teaching them skills that will make them employable.”

Hunter Boggess, a ninth grader at West Jordan Middle School, said the program has taught him customer service skills. Students greet customers, answer their questions, prep orders and carry purchases to their cars. They also learn and practice social skills such as eye contact, phone skills, punctuality and following directions.

Miller said one of the most important skills these special needs teens learn to make them good employees is how to self initiate.

“In the greenhouse, they know that they come out, and they don't just sit and wait for us,” she said. “They get a broom, they get a dustpan, and they start cleaning somewhere in the greenhouse until we're ready to start with what we're going to do for the day.”

“I was surprised how much work goes into running a greenhouse,” said ninth grader Alaina Perkins, who rides a bus from Fort Herriman Middle School to attend the program. She’s not interesting in working in a greenhouse, but she said she is learning skills that will help her in any job.

“Students come away with job skills that will make them employable anywhere,” Miller said. “We're always looking for people who have businesses that would be willing to come in and talk about their job and what they expect of employees.”

The program is set up like a real job. Students apply for the position, are interviewed and are offered a spot in the class. Each day, they punch a time clock, and at the end of each month they earn a “paycheck,” which they learn to cash for South Valley Bucks that can be spent in the school store.

South Valley School also provides job skills training in woodshop classes where students build furniture for the school district. Students can earn school credit for biology from the greenhouse class and math credit for the wood shop classes.