Girl Scouts, PTA team up with district on KSS tree planting


students and director planting a tree

The landscape outside the King Street School will be enhanced by a line of new trees that, in time, will be a majestic legacy to the efforts of parents, students and district staff. 

The first of 100 white spruce seedlings were planted along the southern boundary of the school property near King Street and Tower Hill Drive Thursday, April 28. The effort was a partnership between the school’s PTA, Girl Scout Troop 02098, and the district’s Facilities team, spurred by the damage and removal of trees from an earlier storm.

students planting trees

“In the spirit of things, we decided that if you take down one tree, you plant two more,” King Street Principal Sam Ortiz said.

That was the original inspiration. In the end, though, the effort has led to the planting of 100 seedlings provided by a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation program that provides tree or shrub saplings to youth and education groups free of charge for planting. 

Parent Marissa Torento-Butkiewicz and district Director of Facilities Ray Renda have spearheaded the project jointly. Ms. Torento-Butkiewicz shared with the district Facilities Focus Group a program her Girl Scouts had hoped to start prior to the pandemic called the School Seedling Program. 

tree planting project at school

The project is part of their Take Action project for their 'World of Girls" Journey in conjunction with the Girl Scouts National Tree Promise Program. They are working with the King Street School Garden Committee, a subgroup of the PTA, to give students the opportunity to help with the planting. At least two dozen students volunteered to help. 

“They are learning what women around the world do to make their communities better,” Ms. Torento-Butkiewicz said of her Girl Scouts. “What I hope they take away from today is that they can make a difference in their community if they just speak up.”

The  seedlings arrived right on time, and district facilities staff laid out the plantings along the school’s fence line, 16 feet apart, avoiding band practice fields, the playground and the baseball outfield. They also procured protective sleeves to make them more visible.

student digging a hole

The Brownies, the Garden Club and several Facilities staff members were on hand with shovels and small hand tools as well as wheel barrels, water buckets and cans, and mulch.

Mr. Renda demonstrated by digging a small hole in the ground as a dozen girls crowded around attentively so they could repeat his efforts.

“You’re going to loosen the soil up and save a little bit here,” Mr. Renda said, signaling for an assistant to bring a watering can and some peat moss to keep the soil around the young roots moist. 

Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez applauded the partnership that led to this day. 

tree planting student at school

“This will be such a memorable experience for these girls, as they look back on the difference they have made for their school today,” she said.

Ms. Torento-Butkiewicz said the decision was made to go with white spruce trees because they will grow to an average height of 65 feet versus 250 feet for white pines. 

Brownies Adriana Pace and Arianna Butkiewicz were bouncing from seedling to seedling, helping to dig and plant like the others, excited about seeing this project take shape. 

“I did not know that they made protectors for little trees,” Arianna remarked of the plastic shields that will ensure the safety of the otherwise easy to miss seedlings. Adriana said it was pretty cool that she and her Brownie troop could be a part of such a special day. “It’s important because we had a tree over there,” she said, pointing toward the school building, “and it fell down and now we’re planting all these trees.”