Elementary schools plan an after-school program

The Wednesday, Aug. 14, “Time for Parents” meeting started on a somber note with the announcement of the death of Eagle Creek’s longtime night custodian, Virgil Rohling.

“That’s something the whole district is going to be struggling with. He was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” said Eagle Creek Elementary Principal Dan Draper.

Several of the parents expressed their sadness at the news.

Despite this grave note, the meeting progressed with an air of optimism.

Clackamas River Elementary Principal Seth Johnson told parents that the principals hoped that the direction of the Time for Parents meetings would be shaped without an agenda, through an open dialogue.

Draper told the parents that these gatherings “Will be the main district meetings that all principals will be at.”

Parent survey in development

Draper mentioned that the principals have discussed developing a survey designed to identify and prioritize parents’ goals for the district.

He hopes the survey will be made available in Spanish as well.

“The survey is really to find out what our community wants,” Draper said.

District forms newsletter and joins Twitter

Draper told the parents that he is putting together a districtwide newsletter to highlight positive developments in the district.

It will be offered at least quarterly, perhaps more frequently.

The district also will disseminate information on Twitter. You can read district news at @esd108 without subscribing to Twitter.

After school learning is going ‘full STEAM ahead’

Elementary school principals are excited about an after school-learning program in the works.

The program is called STEAM and will offer after-school classes in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“We’re going to have a pretty full menu of after-school activities both here and at Clackamas River Elementary,” Draper told the parents.

As of now, the after-school classes will be led by volunteers.

According to a draft of the district newsletter, the confirmed STEAM activities include classes in the scientific process, gardening, PowerPoint, Promethean/SMART Boards, performance art, yearbook design, Spanish, Hispanic/Latino culture and “Math In Motion Basketball.”

Johnson explained in a later interview that the STEAM program is still in development and the principals are “very curious to see the turnout.”

“The plan right now is to have everything no cost. That might change in the future but we’re trying to create very low cost opportunities for families,” Johnson said.

Draper said that organizations such as Todos Juntos, Drug-Free Estacada Youth and Families, parent clubs and Estacada Together are helping to make the STEAM activities possible.

Principals discuss staffing changes

Johnson told the parents that despite previously expected cuts to the elementary music and P.E. programs during the coming school year, elementary school students will receive the same amount of P.E. and music instruction as last year.

At the close of the 2012-13 school year, Clackamas River teachers and parents had voiced their concern about the large fourth grade class sizes that would result from having only two teachers at that grade level.

Johnson told the parents at the Time for Parents meeting that Clackamas River will have three full-time teachers at each grade level from first through sixth grade.

Fourth grade will now have the smallest class sizes at Clackamas River. Johnson expects fourth grade class sizes in the mid 20s.

The rest of the grades will range from class sizes in the mid 20s to 30 or 31 pupils.

This year, Clackamas River will offer only one morning kindergarten class and one afternoon one.

Johnson said that he expected that the elementary schools would each have a librarian one day a week.

He told the parents, “We’ve all taken our fair share of hits this year.”

Tina Rhue told the parents that the junior high has lost its Spanish teacher to budget cuts.

To cope with losses such as these, Rhue explained that the junior high is launching a new mini-elective program this year.

“Since we have fewer electives it’s just another opportunity for kids to do something fun and educational during the day,” she said in a later interview.

For half an hour each day, students will participate in a pass/no pass elective club.

An introductory Spanish club will be one of the options.

Students will participate in four clubs a year. They will select a new club each quarter.

Rhue expects to publish the club options in the district newsletter.

Sullivan explains ‘walk-off’ lunch policy

Estacada High School Principal Scott Sullivan told parents that with parent permission, Estacada High School students may walk off the campus for lunch.

However, they are not allowed to drive.

Sullivan said that he was hoping for parent volunteers to walk around the campus and write down the license plates of students leaving the campus for lunch.

“Is that like being the fluoride mom?” one parent laughed.

Another parent asked why the high school didn’t simply have a closed campus lunch policy.

“I personally want a closed campus but we don’t have the resources to enforce it fairly,” Sullivan explained.

He said in a later interview that the high school has had its current lunch policy for at least six years.

One parent mentioned that she’d heard rumors that the high school has a big discipline problem.

Sullivan pointed out that Estacada High School’s dropout rate is lower than the state average and that over the last four years EHS students have tested higher than the state average, and did better than Sandy High School.

“Do we have a drug problem at Estacada High School? Every high school in the country does. Does Estacada High School? Yes. But is it any worse than West Linn?... I don’t think so,” he said.

Sullivan told the parents that while the district faces challenges just like any other, the high school doesn’t deserve a poor reputation.

“I am absolutely proud of what this district does,” he said. “I want people to know all the great things that are happening in our schools, because they are.”

Board votes to discontinue Estacada Alternative High School

During the Estacada School Board Meeting later that evening, the board voted to terminate its longstanding contract for the Estacada Alternative High School with the Timberlake Job Corps.

Estacada School District Superintendent Howard Fetz said later that it was a mutual agreement and that the reasons for breaking off the agreement were mostly fiscal.

“That’s a program that was running in the red,” Fetz said.

The vote serves as a 30-day notice to terminate the agreement as of Sept. 30.

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