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Oregon Trail volunteers help students find success

Schools seek volunteers for variety of teacher- assisting tasks

With class sizes growing steadily in Oregon, schools need all the hands they can get.

In the Oregon Trail School District, many of those helping hands are lent by dedicated community volunteers.

Every year, the Oregon Trail School District runs 1,400-1,500 volunteers through its approval system.POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Naas Elementary Principal Kimberly Brooks introduces new volunteers to the work room at the elementary school.

District Communications Director Julia Monteith said mainly students’ parents and grandparents are the ones volunteering in schools, but some other community members are also known to chip in.

The first qualification to volunteer in an Oregon Trail School is a desire to help children succeed. Beyond that, every volunteer must pass an annual criminal history background check.

“The application process is pretty extensive and requires the applicant to read and agree to a list of guidelines and regulations,” Monteith said.

Schools such as Naas Elementary in Boring have a volunteer check-in system, and volunteers must be sure to return their volunteer passes before leaving the building.

Even with the safeguards in place, volunteers still are not allowed unlimited access to the schools, said Superintendent Aaron Bayer.

“And that’s not because of the people in this room,” Bayer said at a Naas Elementary volunteer orientation on Thursday, Sept. 3. “It’s because of that one parent, that one time, that tries to take that one kid. And we don’t want that on our watch.”POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Volunteers must complete an application and background check before regularly visiting schools to help out.

But after passing the background check and learning the restrictions, volunteers become a necessary piece of the school system.

“Volunteers bring another set of eyes and ears to the classroom, which is especially important in the early grades when kids need as much attention as we can give them,” Monteith noted. “Volunteers take on some of the essential classroom tasks that may free teachers up to spend more time instructing students.”

Volunteers within the school system are invited to help as much as they are able.

“There are many things that go on in this building that would not be possible without volunteer support,” said Naas Principal Kimberly Brooks at the orientation.

Volunteers help out in classrooms and fulfill small tasks, such as gathering art supplies and creating bulletin boards to showcase student work, so teachers can devote their time to teaching students.

“Volunteers organize activities and events, raise money to fill the gap, and bring their personal experience and expertise to the learning environment,” Monteith added.

Volunteer applications and the 2015 handbook are available online at oregontrailschools.com/connect/volunteer-info/.