Warm Springs K-8 Academy has been selected as the name for the new school under construction in Warm Springs.

At the Oct. 14 meeting of the School District 509-J Board of Directors, Superintendent Rick Molitor said 34 names were submitted, and the core team working on plans for the school recommended Warm Springs K-8 Academy for the board’s approval.

Molitor noted that all the district’s other schools are named after the town or area they are in, such as Madras Primary, Metolius Elementary, Buff Intermediate (the street it is on), and Jefferson County Middle School.

Darryl Smith, 509-J director of operations, said the construction process is going amazingly well, and even with a small glitch due to the government shutdown, everything is still on schedule. “They will pour concrete next week in Warm Springs, and they will go vertical next week here at the performing arts building,” he said.

As planned for, 40 percent of the workers constructing the K-8 school are tribal members, and board member Laurie Danzuka said, with the high unemployment in Warm Springs, people are appreciative.

“People are coming in and saying `Thank you for getting me a job.’ It’s been really good and positive. Very rewarding work,” she said.

The public can view progress at both the Madras and Warm Springs construction sites through webcams on the district’s website (Go to "district" then scroll down through page to see photos).

Board member Brad Holliday said he was concerned about planning for the opening of the new school and changes to the district as a whole, and felt it should start before February, as administrators had suggested.

Middle school principal Simon White said some 180 tribal students at his school could potentially be transferred to the new school.

“And right now, Madras Primary and Metolius Elementary are at capacity size,” Molitor noted.

“It sounds like we will be shuffling people at all the schools,” Holliday said, warning, “It will be here before we know it.”

Danzuka agreed, saying, “We need to get the staff together as soon as possible and let them know our expectations.”

In other reports, Molitor gave enrollment totals for Sept. 30. Madras Primary, 411 students; Buff Intermediate, 320; Metolius Elementary, 301; Warm Springs Elementary, 461; JCMS, 634; Madras High School, 770; and Big Muddy School, 18. The total overall enrollment was 2,915.

Average class sizes ranged from 18 to 25.7 students. A few elementary rooms that have 30 students were given extra educational assistants to help the teachers.

Under personnel, hirings included, Sandy Loomis on a one-year contract as a part-time district improvement specialist, Margaret Kincaid as MHS boys tennis coach and Dave Jordan as MHS girls tennis coach. The resignation of head MHS softball coach Shawna McConnell was accepted.

Athletic Director Rory Oster gave a report, saying there were now 175 athletes participating in five varsity sports. To help grow the sports program, a formal sports awards banquet, with all sports represented, is being planned. An athlete of the month program is in the works, along with a True White Buffalo Award, to honor kids who have participated in a sports program for four years.

Board member Stan Sullivan asked, “What are we doing for Culver to show our appreciation for them letting us use their football field?”

Oster said Culver is not charging 509-J, and only asked to be able to sell concessions. He said he would offer to let Culver play on the new 509-J field. The board also requested Molitor send a thank you letter from the board.

MHS Principal Sara Braman-Smith brought information on the tradition of valedictorian, and why the high school doesn’t select one. A valedictorian usually is the student with the top grades in the senior class, who gives the farewell address at graduation, she said.

However, sometime in the 1980s, MHS decided to do away with having a valedictorian, and let all students apply to give the student speech at graduation. The speech wasn’t tied to top grades.

Board Chairman Lyle Rehwinkel said he would like to see the valedictorian brought back, and both he and Holliday mentioned it might provide the student advantages for scholarships and college acceptance.

Student representative Sophie Gemelas said, “We should get more students involved in graduation and let people try out for the speech.” Sullivan agreed, saying, “There are other ways we could honor the valedictorian than by having them give the speech.

More information will be gathered and the idea will be discussed at the next board meeting.

A proposal from food service supervisor Patti Jobe to increase meal prices by 25 cents for lunch was not popular with the board.

“I thought we were looking at free lunch for everyone,” Rehwinkel said of past discussions, which noted only 21 percent of students pay for lunch, and the rest receive free or reduced lunches.

Molitor said they were considering free lunches last year, “Until I got the sticker price on it. The increase would be $10,000,” he said.

The proposal was tabled until the next meeting, so more information can be gathered.

The yearly Impact Aid meeting is coming up and board members wanted to see if it could be held at a Tribal Council meeting. Molitor said he would see if he could schedule it on the Tribal Council agenda.

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