Alternative high school students ask school board for a new elective class that began as a club for girls

Students at Forest Grove's Community Alternative Learning Center are needling district officials for a new elective offering: knitting.

Assistant superintendent John O'Neill and CALC lead teacher Greg Harris brought a course proposal for beginning and intermediate knitting to the school board Monday night, saying it sprang from a request by five students - one boy and four girls - who recently formed a knitting club.

'The kids have really attached themselves to this,' said Harris. 'I'd like it to turn into a credit opportunity for them.'

Superintendent Yvonne Curtis cheered the idea, saying the class could particularly help kinesthetic learners.

'Our students are asking us for something that's relevant to them,' she said. 'It's a niche and a way for them to stay connected to school.'

But the proposal received a relatively prickly reception from one of the board members.

'I knit, and I love knitting,' said Kate Grandusky, who was elected to the board in May after aligning with parents upset over budget cuts to several programs across the district, including home economics-related elective classes such as interior design and child care.

'I'm disappointed. Twenty stitches doesn't cut it for me as rigor,' noted Grandusky, referring to one of the preliminary course objectives.

But Harris defended the curriculum, saying 'the rigor here is on par with any elective class at [Forest Grove] high school.'

If the board approves the course proposal, it would begin enrolling students in February at CALC only. Pupils who pass the knitting class would be awarded half an elective credit, which would not count toward core content requirements.

Forest Grove knitting instructor Lynn Venghaus would teach the course at no cost, and CALC electives teacher Erica Wherry would oversee the class.

'There's no additional teacher time involved,' observed O'Neill, who acknowledged the appearance of the course proposal on the board's agenda Monday 'had raised a few eyebrows.'

Safety came up as an potential issue during the discussion.

'The students would use plastic needles for their knitting,' O'Neill noted.

'Safety is our top concern,' Harris said. 'Pencils are more dangerous than knitting needles.'

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