The Kiwanis Club of Prineville is forging forward to make a new summer school program a reality

Wayne Looney is determined to improve reading skills in Crook County.

Back in January, Looney came to the Crook County School District with $20,000, earmarked by the Kiwanis Club, of which he is a member, for a summer school reading readiness program.

“Reading is the most important tool for learning,” he told the board. “If students get behind in that skill set, they are at serious risk as they move through the educational system.”

Looney is also busy preparing for the Kiwanis Charity Golf Tournament, the club’s biggest fundraiser of the year, funds from which are slated to be used to support the readiness initiative.

“Through the generosity of our community, we can offer this summer school program because of the money raised from the golf tournament,” he said.

Looney’s proposed program will begin on June 23 and run through August 14.

“The school will meet for 32 days, four days each week,” he said, explaining that the day would start with a free breakfast at 8:30 a.m., instruction from 9 a.m. until noon, and end with a free lunch.

Looney wants people to understand that the cost of the meals will be paid for by state and federal grants and not funded by the school district.

Despite the free meals, there remains a major roadblock standing in the way of the school.

“Having this school remains contingent on the district providing bus transportation,” said Looney, who, along with the district, has estimated the cost to be $10,000 per bus.

“Because of the geography of Crook County, it is more likely that we will need two buses,” said Looney. “That makes the cost $20,000, which is more problematic.”

Despite the cost, Looney does not want to limit any student’s ability to attend.

“I hope that this program will be available for all students that are in need,” said Looney. “But, at this point, I have concerns that we can this off the ground because of the transportation issue.”

Stacy Smith, director of curriculum and instruction for the Crook County School District, is working under the assumption that the school board wants to make this happen as much as Looney does.

“The school board is looking at ways to budget the money to fund the transportation,” he said. “But, as we enter the new budget season, there are important decisions to make. They need to remain cognizant that if this gets funded something else does not.”

Stacy is not quite sure how many buses will be required, but agrees with Looney that a student’s location should not become a factor.

“But, we don’t want kids on the bus for three hours each way,” he said. “It will all depend on where they are located within the county.”

The upcoming golf tournament, scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 31 at Meadow Lakes Golf Course, is a wonderful way for local residents to get in a round of golf and help with the reading readiness project.

From banner sponsors, priced at $1,500, to tee sponsors, priced at $300, there are a variety of ways that local businesses, and individuals, can participate, gain some recognition, and provide funds to the Kiwanis.

Meanwhile, Looney forges ahead with making the school a reality, as he is about to begin interviewing potential lead teachers.

“There has been interest from two teachers within the district for the job,” explained Looney. “We have also had a few retired teachers express interest in having a role.”

Despite all of the obstacles, Looney remains optimistic.

“I think that there is a 90 percent chance that this program will be a go,” he said.

The deadline to become a sponsor for the golf tournament is May 16. Contact Looney at 541-416-9380 for more information.

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