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Rock Spring wins grant for outdoor classroom

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Rock Spring Elementary School is a step closer to completion of its outdoor classroom, with the addition of a $5,000 grant to aid in its construction.

The school, located in McDonough, was one of 28 schools state-wide to be awarded a grant through Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation, and the Lowe's Toolbox for Education Program.

"This year, we're really focusing on basic needs ... given the hard economic times," said Lowe's Spokeswoman Katie Cody.

Cody said Rock Spring will be able to reach out to its local Lowe's in addition to the grant, however, "and in a lot of cases, Lowe's employees can volunteer and help with projects as well."

Matthew Banks, store manager of Lowe's in McDonough, said local store employees plan to offer their expertise and assistance on completing the outdoor classroom.

"We've got plans to help them with the whole project," Banks said. "Of course, we're going to supply products, and we'll have red aprons [employees] out there. We're going to be some strong backs out there to help them out."

Banks said Lowe's employees have assisted local schools in years past, most recently helping create an outdoor classroom at Dutchtown Elementary School in Hampton. "We all live in this community, and we want to make sure we're good neighbors," he continued. "It's the least we could do to get some employees and myself out there to get some things going."

Lowe's Toolbox for Education Program, Banks said, has provided more than $20 million, and has affected more than 2 million schoolchildren, through grants, since its inception five years ago.

"Through our Toolbox for Education grant program, Lowe's recognizes parent-initiated efforts to enrich the lives of children in our communities," added Larry Stone, chairman of Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.

"By supporting schools in Georgia, we are contributing to a cause that's important to our customers and employees, and we're also helping to build a stronger foundation for the children who will be tomorrow's employees, home owners and community leaders."

Rock Spring's outdoor classroom is being dedicated to former principal, Mike Hightower, who died of cancer in February 2009, after being diagnosed in October 2008 -- just months after opening the rural Henry County elementary school.

The outdoor classroom is being called, the "Hightower Habitat Outdoor Classroom at Rock Spring."