Report on plans for W.S. Academy

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Cold temperatures caused jelling of the diesel fuel used by school buses, and resulted in cancellation of classes on Monday and Tuesday.School for District 509-J students was canceled for a second day in on Tuesday, Dec. 10, mainly due to diesel jelling in the school buses during recent below zero temperatures.

Superintendent Rick Molitor reported at Monday’s school board meeting that as of that night, bus barn crews had only been able to get eight buses running, and the whole fleet was needed to transport students.

“None of our buses started this morning (Dec. 9) because the diesel jelled. There was also some water damage in the middle school band room, high school art room, and frozen pipes and toilets at Madras Primary,” Molitor said.

The reconfiguration of district schools, after Warm Springs K-8 Academy opens, was discussed by the board.

Molitor presented two options. Option 1 would keep all the schools as they now are, which would allow more time to make plans.

Option 2 would move the fifth-graders into the middle school, since both Metolius and Madras Primary are currently at capacity. Metolius, Madras Primary and Buff Intermediate would all be K-4 schools, while Jefferson Count Middle School would house grades five through eight.

While deciding on options, community meetings will be held for input, a staff survey will be done, and information will be presented to the board in January for a decision.

Warm Springs K-8 Academy Planning Principal Glenna DeSousa presented a video outlining instructional ideas developed with elementary and middle school teachers on the planning team.

The Alvo Institute was also hired as a consultant, and members of the group visited other schools to gather ideas.

The video is part of an application for a Bill Gates Grant of $150,000 for extensive teacher training, and could match up to $300,000 in future grant funds.

Concepts for the school include a vision to “Honor our past and inspire growth and limitless potential.” The curriculum would celebrate tribal culture and capture the interest of the students.

The school would use small group instruction, individualized learning, culturally-relevant lessons, and have master teachers, enhanced with an instructional computer lab. Students would know what they were expected to learn and work toward those goals.

“Students would move between three teachers who specialize in the areas of social studies, math/science, and an elective,” DeSousa said, adding that a personal mastery system would start in kindergarten.

The budget for the new school includes $8,766 per student in state school funds, and a 16.4 teacher-to-student ratio.

“We hope Warm Springs K-8 Academy would be the catalyst for this (type of learning). If we don’t get the Gates grant, we will still want to go ahead with this. It’s good for all students in our entire district,” Molitor said.

“I recommend we move full steam ahead with this, with or without the grant,” Molitor said.

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