After tragically losing two students during the 2015-2016 school year, staff and students at Van Alstyne Elementary School recently came together to do something special to honor and remember Reagan and Grant Small.
A committee of the siblings’ teachers and people who knew the family worked on the idea of a garden for the elementary school. Keri Morris, the special education teacher at VAES, applied for and received a grant specifically for the garden.
Grant and Reagan Small died in a fire in Van Alstyne on Oct. 8, 2015 after police said their father, David Small, set the fire to take his own life and that of his children. Mr. Small also died in the fire.
The garden has come together over the current school year, with each grade level taking its own section of planters, while all grades share the pergola and benches to use as a sort of “outdoor classroom” when learning can be taken outside. The garden sits just outside the library, so that even when indoors, it can be enjoyed. It was named the GREA garden after a nickname Reagan and Grant’s mother had for her children.
During a recent trip to the garden with her class to begin a weather unit, second grade teacher Mattie Mullenix told her students that the garden was named the “GREA” Garden because Reagan and Grant were always together and when their mother would call them, she would say their names so fast that it would come out jumbled together. That gave them the nickname GREA, to which they would both answer.
Although they had been out there before, Mullenix told the class that the garden was there because everyone wanted a place to remember Reagan and Grant.
“A garden was chosen so that knowledge is growing and they always live on with us,” she said.
Almost everything in the GREA garden has been donated. From the lumber for the planters to the building of the pergola, and most recently the iron sign that dons the name “GREA Garden” from Jimmy Don Holmes, who regularly appears on the Waco-based HGTV show “Fixer Upper.”
Staff from the Van Alstyne Independent School District said the GREA Garden will be a permanent fixture for years to come.