When Montgomery Granger took over the position of Pierson athletics director and facilities supervisor in August, one of his first orders of business was to assess the landscaping on campus. From mint green holly bushes at the front entrance of the high school to a privet hedge in the back of the elementary school, the district boasts an impressive array of foliage. After surveying the grounds last week with tree expert Bill Miller, Granger learned that several of these trees and shrubs don’t meet state regulations. These plants, said Granger, must be cut down or removed to comply with the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act. This state legislation was passed in 2000 in the wake of the Columbine school shootings and outlines safety protocol at public schools.
According to the SAVE guidelines, shrubs must be pruned down to three feet and the height of trees is capped at eight feet.
“The idea is to have a clear view across campus,” explained Granger. “If we had a criminal on campus we want to make sure there is no place for them to hide.”
However, this also means that the privet hedge will be trimmed down and the holly bushes will be removed. On the Division Street entrance to the middle school, the weeping cedars will be pruned to provide better visibility. Granger plans to clip or relocate several flowering bushes along a wall of the elementary school.
A few of Granger’s suggestions are purely aesthetic. He hopes to extract the Norway maple in front of the elementary school entrance on Route 114 to create symmetry. The maple’s partner tree died and in the summer months the maple’s leaves cover over the name of the school etched onto the building.
Granger presented his recommendations at a Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting on Monday. The board and public appeared receptive to his ideas, although Granger later noted that school plants are often a sensitive subject.
“I am coming from a situation were it took several years to get a school into [SAVE] compliance,” noted Granger. “I want to be cautious to the feelings of the community. We have tremendously beautiful grounds, but we have to maintain them.”
Granger plans to formulate a priority list for these landscaping projects.