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December 13, 2000 1 min read
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Bountiful Harvest

Debra Lucas couldn’t see the forest for all the trees, and certainly didn’t know how much those trees growing next to her rural elementary school in central Louisiana were worth.

That is, until officials at the Roy O. Martin Lumber Co. got in touch with the president of the school board in Kolin, La., and informed him that a contract on the tract of land had expired. In the contract, the lumber company pledged to donate all of the proceeds from the wood to the school.

As a result, they said, the 300-student Ruby Wise Elementary School could expect as much as $100,000 when the lumber growing there was harvested.

“We are just delighted,” said Ms. Lucas, the principal of the school. “This has been a nice windfall for us.”

In 1951, the Alexandria, La.-based lumber company donated the 20-acre plot of land to the school for 50 years as part of an effort to teach students the value of reforestation.

At that time, the school was a junior high, and many of the students took part in planting pine trees on the land, Ms. Lucas said.

Some pulp lumber has been taken off the land in the past, but the tract has never been completely cleared, she said.The pine trees are now as much as 18 inches in diameter, which is part of the reason they are so valuable.

Now, chainsaws and heavy machinery are cutting down the trees, and Ms. Lucas expects to see a check for the wood sometime after the first of the year. She plans to use the money to make some much-needed renovations to the 60-year old school, including updating the intercom system, purchasing new computer technology, and buying some new playground equipment.

“We have a long shopping list,” Ms. Lucas said. About 25 former students who were involved in the original reforestation project took part in a ceremony last month during which the lumber company re-dedicated the land to the school for another 50 years.

—Michelle Galley

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2000 edition of Education Week

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