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There is never a dull moment at Hallinan Elementary School — at least, not according to Mary Larson.

Larson serves as president of Hallinan’s Parent Teacher Organization .

“We are responsible for supporting all of the enrichment by: VERN UYETAKE - Hallinan Elementary PTO President Mary Kay Larson.programs at the school, providing additional services and financial support,” Larson explains.

Palisades Elementary School was closed in 2011, and many of its former students were moved to Hallinan.

“We have such a strong culture of being inclusive and welcoming new people and embracing change, and I think that’s helped us a lot over the last few years with all the change in the district,” Larson says. “When Palisades came over, we kind of took it as, we’re going to be a little snug, but this is a good thing. It wasn’t just a welcome committee; everyone at Hallinan took responsibility to welcome new people and make it a positive experience.”

As part of this effort to make the new students feel more at home, Hallinan has made the effort to adopt some traditions of their former school.

“The things they loved about their school were brought over,” Larson says. “It was fun for people who had been at Hallinan to try new things, and for Palisades it made them feel like it was home.”

This communal spirit is evident through Hallinan’s Hands on Projects Encouraging Service (HOPES) program, in which participation by students in a service project that changes monthly earns them leaves bearing their names on the Tree of HOPES, a paper tree signifying Hallinan’s growing community service engagement.

Other unique opportunities abound at Hallinan, Larson says. “Each grade level brings in a professional artist and does a weeklong program with them. Sometimes it’s a sculptor or theater or mosaic; this year, glass blowing. It can also be an artist in science, like CSI animal trackers.”

Hallinan is a Premier school in the Oregon Green Schools program.

“Obviously it’s a big source of pride,” says Larson, “but we’re keeping it going because we’ll be up for renewal in about a year, so we’re constantly making sure we’re doing what we need to do but also looking at new ways to be green.”

More than anything, Larson says, Hallinan has a “very strong, positive school culture,” adding, “One very timely example is the reopening of the science lab. It was being threatened by lack of space but everyone in the community put our heads together to come up with solutions to create the necessary space at school. My role was to share input but it was all of us working together that made it all happen. Now, we have smaller class sizes, a very popular computer on wheels program and a science lab. It’s a huge win for everyone.”

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