Solon High School (SHS) explores the possibilities of a new greenhouse

The door that leads to the remains of SHSs former greenhouse. Picture captured by Hannah Levenson.

Hannah Levenson

The door that leads to the remains of SHS’s former greenhouse. Picture captured by Hannah Levenson.

Hannah Levenson, Editor-in-Chief

Behind the paper-blocked-out windows, remains a part of the greenhouse on the second floor of Solon High School (SHS). In 1988, SHS opened its greenhouse for students and teachers to use for science classes and programs. After declining usage of the space by classes, the greenhouse was discontinued in 2010 and turned into storage space. Structural damage built up from years of usage caused water damage. The greenhouse was abandoned in 2012, and 576 square feet of the structure was removed.

With the expansion of environmental and AP Environment classes at SHS, some students and environmental science teacher Kaylee Rodriguez, have expressed an interest in restoring the greenhouse. Last school year, SHS seniors Brianna Gordon, Kiera Hale, Maria Headen, Matthew Headen and junior Abigayle Cronk, worked together to create a proposal plan for a new greenhouse for SHS.

Rodriguez, who is a 2013 graduate of SHS, could recall her own days of using the greenhouse.

“I have big memories of it,” Rodriguez said. “We used [the greenhouse] for AP Biology.”

Hale, who works at Cleveland Botanical Garden, stated that she felt disappointed that she was unable to have a greenhouse to utilize during her time at SHS.

“The fact that we had one in the past made me kinda sad,” Hale said. “These four years of being at Solon High School, I would have loved to take care of a greenhouse.”

The students took inspiration from Hudson High School’s (HHS) hydroponic greenhouse, a type of greenhouse where plants are grown in water. Solon students want to use the nutrient film technique to grow bell peppers, herbs, kale, lettuce, radishes, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes.

Similar to HHS’s greenhouse, the SHS greenhouse would be run by science classes such as environmental science and biology. Rodriguez expressed that she would like the greenhouse to be student-led.

“I think the [Environmental Science classes] and other [science] classes in the school could all collaborate,” Rodriguez said. “It would be really cool to grow food that we could then provide for the community, that would be an amazing goal.”

These plants would then possibly be used for SHS cafeteria lunches, classroom and independent research, club usage, donation to local food banks or possibly sold to students, teachers or farmers markets to generate revenue.

However, the students also saw potential barriers to creating the greenhouse such as getting the greenhouse back up to code, maintenance and plumbing costs, pest infestations, and material costs. Black Environmental Leaders, an environmentalist group based in Solon, offered to fund the project and Food Depot’s to Health’s leader, Veronica Walton, offered to donate seeds and set up volunteers. Other possible financial solutions the students saw were to apply for the Global Shapers’ NEO Youth Climate Action Fund Grant, which funds student eco-friendly projects in northeast Ohio.

The most pressing issue the group recognized was that they would need to get approval from the Solon Board of Education. The group started a petition that received around 150 signatures from students. Following their petition, the group was able to meet with SHS Principal Erin Short and Solon City Schools Superintendent Fred Bolden.

The plan for a new greenhouse for the 2022-2023 school year was denied due to limited funding, and the timeline given for construction in the students’ plan was unfeasible for the district.

Short believes that despite this rejection, there could be a greenhouse for SHS in the future.

“[The greenhouse] is on our radar, I don’t want to say it’s tabled,” Short said. “We have to put a pause [on the greenhouse] until we make decisions about the entire building.”

Short also explained that if SHS did not get a greenhouse in the future, there would likely be one incorporated into a new high school building for Solon City Schools. Short sees this possibility as more realistic due to a common consensus that both the district and the people of Solon would like to see a new high school building within the next decade or renovations to SHS.

“The district is not going to invest in tens of thousands of dollars [in Solon High School] if eventually [there would be a new high school building],” Short said. “If my opinion were asked, I think it would be very beneficial when [the city builds] a new high school, that [they] incorporate [a greenhouse].”