The empty courtyard at Larned High School


On October 15th, 2021, the courtyard at the center of Larned High School was emptied. The courtyard used to have grass, trees, rocks, and furniture within it, but the furniture and nature was ripped out and replaced with bare concrete. Now the courtyard is idle and uninviting. Many who look at the courtyard in its present state compare it to an empty prison yard. The courtyard has been maintained by many different hands over the years; however, before it was torn down it wasn’t being maintained well. Those who had taken care of it in the past agreed that something needed to be done with it. But what can be done with it now?

While researching the courtyard and its history, we interviewed two of its previous caretakers. One of these caretakers was Mrs. Fitzpatrick. Back in those days, she was the StuCo sponsor while the courtyard was first being built and afterward. When we asked her for some insight into the original intentions for the courtyard, Mrs. Fitzpatrick told us, “We were trying to make it an inviting garden-type area, to kind of pretty up the school and make it look nice.” Fitzpatrick mentioned that the courtyard had many caretakers over the years, which led to a lot of miscommunication among them. This lack of consistency contributed to the decline of its condition. 

One of the main reasons that the courtyard was turned into concrete was the difficulty of managing and maintaining it. When asked why he supported the change to concrete, Mr. Wilson said, “A big reason was upkeep. Prior to the bond passing, there was a gate to get to the band room, so maintenance was a little bit easier. So when we closed that off, we didn’t have any real way to access the equipment, or get the grass out.” As Mr. Wilson indicated, LHS used to have an opening in the side of the building by the band room and this was part of the reason that the courtyard was built in the first place. With easy convenience to the outer world, maintaining the courtyard wasn’t a difficult task. But when the building was closed off, maintaining the courtyard became incredibly difficult and upkeep became irregular. 

Many staff and students look at the courtyard and only see the things that need to be done to it. They only see the bleak and empty landscape, without considering the potential that the courtyard has. 

Mr. Wilson stated, “Hopefully, by the springtime, we’re gonna open it up and kids can cross through it for their passing periods. It can be a study spot and we’re hoping to get some seating for students to eat lunches out there. So we intend for it to be multipurpose. And StuCo is going to look at some things to put out there, whether it be furniture, couches, ottomans, tables, swings, you know various things that make it usable.” 

Mr. Wilson also mentioned that, depending on the weather, hosting the homecoming dance outside could be an option. While the courtyard is not currently the most appealing sight on the LHS property, some still manage to see it in a positive light. 

Mrs. Fitzpatrick told us, “My parents did all the landscaping, they bought all the plants, organized everything, and they made a lot of the structures that were out there. So when those all started falling apart it was way harder to look at than it is now. And I’m hoping that they do something more to it so it’s at least useful for something.” 

Making the courtyard usable isn’t a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. This year is a busy one, and renovating and decorating a courtyard takes time. Mr. Wilson mentioned that because of how busy it got, the courtyard was put on the back burner. The hope is that the courtyard will be completed before the end of second semester and that it will be a low-maintenance, multipurpose place for students to enjoy for years to come. So the next time you look at the plain, and unappealing courtyard, think of it as a blank canvas with infinite possibilities.