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A group led by students and staff will present the proposal to the school board this month

After spending the better part of the past few months finalizing and crafting a written proposal, a group led by local students, graduates and faculty is ready to present an environmental education continuum to the Newberg School District board of directors.

The group – led in part by NHS graduate and current OSU student Quentin Comus – sent the 111-page proposal in its final form to board members in late January and will present it to the board at its monthly meeting Feb. 25.

"We were approached by the board chair back in December and Pete (Siderius), Bridget (Czarnecki) and Meryl (Kunkel) met with the board," Comus said. "They offered us to come speak to them about the grand scheme of things and that turned into an opportunity to formally present the continuum."

This environmental education continuum is a roadmap for the school district to inject environmental curriculum into its schools while giving students the tools to either enter careers in the field or be good stewards of the environment – all while the district does its part to protect the environment in the classroom and out in the field. It is an unprecedented approach to environmental education, Comus said, that includes help from people from around the community and has a variety of funding sources.

The proposal includes a lot of ideas borne out of the student-run Chehalem Valley Watershed Project, but also key elements from a climate resolution put forth by Czarnecki – a Chehalem Valley Middle School student and environmental activist. Staff members such as Siderius – an NHS biology teacher – along with other stakeholders in Newberg and Yamhill County, all provided insight and guidance in crafting this proposal.

Now, the proposal has letters of support from more than 30 local organizations such as local winemakers, businesspeople, foundations and university departments.

"It's a diverse group of stakeholders that agrees with our proposal," Comus said. "They believe it will boost the economy, help academic success and protect the environment."

The presentation of this proposal will be a learning opportunity for the board, who will have a chance to review the full 111 pages prior to Comus and Siderius's presentation at the board meeting. Included in the proposal is a renewed approach to environmental education, the benefits of adding new programs and Career and Technical Education (CTE) opportunities, and how that fits with Newberg's schools at all levels.

Comus said he expects a lot of questions about the plan and plenty of deliberation before the board considers adopting it, but he made sure to emphasize that it isn't legally binding for the district, but rather is a guide.

"Their adoption of the proposal is accepting it as a framework for further action," he said. "Nothing in the document obligates the district to carry out any specific program element. For Newberg, that includes establishing a dedicated environmental curriculum and achieving some of the goals we've outlined in the proposal."

Further details of the proposal are available online at www.CVWP.org. Opportunity for public comment in support of the program will exist at the Feb. 25 board meeting; many supporters in the community are expected to be there.

Overall, the proposal represents a massive undertaking by local students with the help of adult advisors. It is the most ambitious environmental education plan of its kind in the state, Comus said.

"Along the way, we weren't expecting for this process to be smooth given how the education system works," he added. "But Joe Morelock, Luke Neff, the board and everyone that we've worked with have been honest and understand the benefit of environmental education. They've really helped us craft the language to convey what we need and I'm just glad they were willing to listen to us.

"Essentially, it's more of the district embracing a concept and taking a stance against climate change to improve our schools. At the same time, it will provide students opportunities to pursue career paths and have a better understanding of the issue through hands-on learning."


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