Alumni, community come up big for new FMHS courtyard

Fort Madison High School Principal Greg Smith stands in the refurbished courtyard inside the high school commons. The school raised $19,500 total for the project, not including in-kind donations. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC


FORT MADISON – It’s tucked into a open-air space between two hallways and two classrooms at Fort Madison High School, but it certainly holds a special place in the hearts of Fort Madison alumni.

All together FMHS principal Greg Smith secured about $19,000 in donations to clean and refurbish the courtyard at the high school. When in-kind donations are figured in he said the project totaled more than $30,000 with some finishing touches still to come.

“I asked for $15,000 on a Monday morning and just got that out there and in just two weeks I had $17,000,”

While Smith, with the help of Kirk and Cathy Butler, put in most of the sweat equity he’s quick to give credit to former students and the community in getting the project completed.

“We spent a lot of time out here digging up weeds and cleaning and I’m very glad I had a physical job in college,” Smith said with a laugh

Smith said when the district added the new administrative space on the front of the building they took up the courtyard space there so from that time on there was no place for the kids just to relax or do a classroom activity.

The new courtyard features red and black recycled rubber mulch, freshly poured concrete pathways and a gathering areas, and a new gazebo complete with tables and chairs.

Kempker’s True Value Rental donated about $4,500 in new heavy iron benches for the new area. And the schools building trades classes, including construction and welding students, fabricated the gazebo. Mohrfeld Electric donated electrical work to power some lights that will be added as well.

“Clint (Kobelt’s) construction trades class are usually building a home and it’s hard to get them, but they really wanted to be a part of this project,” Smith said. “The welding class did the metal beams.”

He said the biggest donation came early, after he put out a call for help in getting the courtyard refurbished.

“We got a $5,000 donation from someone who moved away and owns two construction companies in Texas. He called and said he wanted to make a donation, but had a problem. He said he never graduated. He got a good job his senior year and never came back, but really wanted to be a part of this.”

Smith said he got other donations from classes including the 1961 class that was in town for their 60th high school reunion this weekend.

“We’ve had so many classes and alumni come forward. From the moment we put out the call for this, the donations have come pouring in,” he said.

A large HVAC unit that sits on the northeast side of the courtyard will be removed as soon as it begins to fail. Smith said it was too old to move to the roof, so they are just waiting for it to give out.

While all the landscape was being removed, Smith said they found a large drain on the northeast side, that will be used to help move water out of the courtyard during heavy rains

Trees and shrubbery for the space are under consideration, but Smith said they haven’t made up their minds yet on those additions.

He said the space will be available for teachers and students as well as the community.

“Every time I say high school, we mean community. This is a community school so groups can call us and check on availability to use the courtyard. Teachers will be able to check it out like a piece of equipment.

He said a plaque will be created to be placed in the courtyard with the names of those who donated to the project.

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