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Rethink Buff

To the Editor,
   I would like to invite all taxpayers, community members and parents to attend the Jefferson County 509-J school board meeting to be held on Jan, 24. At this meeting our elected School Board members will hear a plan on how our school administration will fill Buff Elementary.
   Up until the 13th they planned on filling it with kindergarten and sixth-grade students. At a meeting held for kindergarten parents on the 13th, parents were led to believe that their kindergarten students would not attend a school with sixth-grade students, and as reported to them from Superintendent Johnson, it would be a k-5 school.
   At 7 p.m., on the 13th, at Madras Elementary there was a meeting for all fifth grade parents of Westside Elementary and Madras Elementary at which a power point presentation was given by the principals of these two schools. It was informing them that their sixth-graders would attend Buff Elementary and looked at all the positives that could come from it, such as small class sizes, small school and resolving our county's cultural issues when students are combined, from all areas of the county.
   I ask, what is our school district trying to cover up? Why lead one group to believe one idea, and yet propose another idea to another group of parents?
   Let's ask the district, why did you advertise a bond that would provide another elementary school in our district and then change your minds? Really puts into perspective, the fact that we have a vote but it really doesn't mean anything when the superintendent's office can make a proposal and a team of five board members can vote to change all of the tax payer's votes.
   Are the administrators and Superintendent Johnson really thinking about our students when they isolate our sixth-graders and any advantages they have by attending JCMS? "Waiting a year" as Superintendent Johnson has suggested, will only put our 11- and- 12 year-olds at a learning disadvantage. Do they realize that in other communities in Central Oregon, school children this age are already given opportunities of foreign language classes, more athletic options, a growing music program and advanced academics in all areas. These students are the students our children will be competing against in academic challenges, sporting challenges, for scholarships, for college course placement and eventually the jobs in Central Oregon. In the competitive society we live, in, I think we can't afford to wait a year.
   Superintendent Johnson and his administration advisers feel that we need to pull all the sixth-graders together, in a separate environment, to work on cultural issues. While this sounds good and has good intentions, let's look at the facts. Out of a seven-hour school day? Which includes lunch and required teaching time, they will spend how many minutes, teaching cultural awareness, addressing cultural issues, etc? Thirty, 40 minutes or so? How can we afford to purchase a curriculum or bring in guest speakers for assemblies for just sixth-graders? This month JCMS is holding an assembly on " bullying" that will reach 700 students and staff, vs. 200 if we have sixth-grade at Buff Elementary.
   These issues are just not issues for kids from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, for 170 days out of the year. It is a community issue. Much of a child's life is spent with family and community. We have area agencies, such as Young Life, MACAT, and many church youth groups, in place, working with students and their families. Does our school district have a plan to involve families?
   JMCS has just released data that was collected by survey, in November, from students and parents. Students overall feel comfortable, safe and feel that they are learning. Parents feel very much the same as students, and felt that cultural issues were the least of their concerns. Parents, I urge you to look at these surveys.
   I urge to think about what our district is trying to do our in schools. JCMS has a capacity of 1,000 students and is built for middle school students. Currently, they have approximately 700 students and have made great strides in making this school a successful place for students, families and staff. Why would you, in fact, stop growth when it is moving in a positive direction?
   If small schools and small class sizes, as presented to the fifth-grade parents, work and are better for children, then why not for all the students who attend Madras Elementary, in a school that is bursting at the seams with students, has the highest class sizes in the district, has the least amount of PE time, has music in the cafeteria and classes on the stage because there is not classroom space.
   It will be hard for me to send my student to school each day, where there is overcrowding and lack of academic advantages, and then look down the street and see a bunch of empty classrooms.
   Is it easier for the district, to prey on the community's lack of trust in the middle school and pretend to have a plan to solve issues that have been in this community for a long time? What will be their way of evaluating if this has worked or not? Test scores? Is this the district's way of not losing any federal dollars? Is the district telling us the entire story here? I think that the superintendent's office and our district have some questions to answer.
   
   Please join me at the school board meeting on Jan. 24, 7 p.m., in the school district administration office to see if we can get them.
   Stacy Reed
   Madras