Free K-8 lunches proposed

by: SUSAN MATHENY - The School District 509-J Board of Directors visited the Big Muddy School, which sits on the side of a scenic hill at the ranch, on May 12.School board members traveled some 51 miles one way to hold the District 509-J May 12 board meeting at the Big Muddy School on the Washington Family Ranch.

The board tries to hold a meeting in each district school at least once a year to get a firsthand look at what’s going on in the schools. The school at the ranch, which is an expansive church camp, provides education for 18 children of the ranch’s employees.

First on the agenda, board members, Superintendent Rick Molitor and other guests were put behind the wheel of “canyon cars” to experience the camp’s newest entertainment feature – a mini race track. Luckily, everyone survived.

by: SUSAN MATHENY - Board Chairman Stan Sullivan and other board members got the opportunity to try out the ranch's new Canyon Car mini race track.The board took a tour of some of the buildings and was served dinner, while Bug Muddy teacher Kerick Adams went over some of the year’s educational highlights and several eager students gave presentations. Adams teaches grades K-8 in a modular unit which has two main rooms. Students in high school study through online programs.

During a tour of the school, students excitedly showed the group their new playground – a flat area on a lot above the school which is covered with gravel. The old narrow play area next to the school didn’t give them much room to run around, Adams explained.

by: SUSAN MATHENY - The board met most of the 18 students who attend the K-8 Big Muddy School, as well as others who are in high school.“After the gravel area was completed, they all went up and just ran around in a circle,” he laughed, noting how excited the students were to have open space. The camp itself has 40 acres of grassy lawns, but it is a good distance away from the school.

After considering three options, the board approved a request to apply for a federal plan to allow free breakfast and lunch for students in grades K-8. At Madras High School, parents would still have to fill out the free and reduced-priced lunch application to qualify. If they don’t qualify, they would pay the lunch fee.

All 509-J schools, except MHS, qualify to be reimbursed for meals because of the percentage of students needing help with food. These students include those in foster care, Head Start, in the SNAP program (food stamps), TANF program (state cash assistance), or who qualify for food distribution on an Indian reservation.

The district would save money by not having to do all the paperwork involved with selling lunch tickets and keeping track of credits, and full lunch reimbursements would be increased by $15,000. At a later time, if enough MHS students qualify for lunch reimbursements, MHS could be added to the free program, it was noted. It now has 75 percent of its students who qualify.

During the meeting, Darryl Smith, director of operations, reported that a crew and volunteers including George Neilson, started laying out turf on the football field on Monday.

Molitor said 105 people had registered to participate in the district’s two-day strategic design workshop, which will be held beginning at 5 p.m., May 15 at the Inn at Cross Keys, and facilitated by consultant Chuck Schwahn. He helps school districts identify their beliefs, mission, student outcomes, and a vision of what it will look, be, and feel like in the future.

In regards to the old Warm Springs Elementary buildings, the board voted to close the school as of July 1, and set the boundary for those attending the new Warm Springs K-8 Academy as “students and (children of) parents living on the Warm Springs Reservation.”

The board voted to declare the district’s interest in the lease of the Warm Springs Elementary buildings, including portable units, as surplus property. The district most recently had a five-year lease with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The buildings will revert back to the BIA, which will determine if they will be donated to the tribes for community use. “The tribes can make beneficial use of the property for the good of the community, and the district can be relieved of any further obligation of (maintaining) the property,” Molitor said.

The district would continue providing an alternative education, using two of the portable classroom units, after moving them to an area next to the teacher housing.

Board member Laurie Danzuka noted, “There is a high need in Warm Springs for office space, and the Kids Club, and this would be an ideal space for them. The gym is a pretty high commodity and it has a lot of sentimental value to a lot of people.”

In other business:

. Under personnel, Sean Cease was hired as a physical education teacher and the new MHS varsity football coach.

Resignations were accepted from special education teacher Carissa Shupp, and Warm Springs K-8 Academy teacher Jeff Grigsby. First-year teaching contracts were given to Buff Intermediate teacher Megan Roth, and Warm Springs K-8 Academy teachers Annette Hennessy and Meagan White. Third-year teaching hires included Matthew Edgmon at the middle school, and Lenida Bilanovic at Warm Springs K-8 Academy. A two-year contract was given to middle school teacher Natalie Hill.

• The policy on school visitors was tabled until the next meeting.

• Next year’s school calendar was approved, and it is similar to this year’s calendar.

• The 509-J District agreed to keep providing educational services for Big Muddy School, and the Jefferson County Educational Service District contract was approved for another year.

• East Cascade Retirement Community was granted a tax exemption from the general obligation taxes due to the district.

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