School board hears student garden proposal
It was Appreciation Day for the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors at their January meeting last Thursday. Teachers presented cards from students to the board, as well as one big card loaded with candy bars from Mrs. Wright’s fifth grade class. Classified Staff wanted to show their appreciation as well and their president Lacey Woodside invited the board to enjoy a free lunch at the grade school.
New Mayor Dale Jacobson introduced himself to the board and spoke of his hope to encourage students to perform community service around town.
Americorps member Sheila Mace, who has been working hard to establish a student garden on school grounds requested space for the project near the middle school portables.
“It would be an opt-in program for the teachers,” Mace said. “I want it to be an asset to the classroom. The last thing I want is for this to become a burden for them. If a teacher decided to opt out, students can always work in the garden at recess. I feel that we have the support to come to you and say, ‘can we have a piece of dirt?’”
Principals Theresa Libby and Stephanie Leitz spoke in favor of the program but were concerned about how the garden would be staffed.
“Kyle Hurley has a great interest in starting plants in the greenhouse or having high school kids work with some of the grade school kids. And yes, “Libby told the board, “there are staff members that are definitely interested.”
“As far as kids,” added Leitz, “having something to do at recess or part of curriculum and science, it’s a great idea. Or working with Mr. Hurley, learning to compost, using the food in the garden, or being able to use it with the GAP program: All of those pieces would be amazing examples of the community working together to provide something wonderful.”
Mace addressed their concerns, noting that funds may be available to provide a coordinator to staff the garden and that a couple interested people had already stepped forward. She also said that local 4-H clubs have shown interest in tending the garden during the summer, thus providing care all year round.
This was the first time that the board had heard about the garden and they decided to take a little more time to research and study the proposal before making a decision.
Leitz reported that a guest speaker had come from Seattle to talk about bullying and that the school district would be giving special attention to the topic in the next week.
“The high school teen advocacy group and the middle school’s prevention club have been collecting ideas to prepare for anti-bullying week,” said Lisa Frink, the school’s prevention intervention specialist. “Renae Hauff, who works for Charlotte House and St. James Center is working with me. The students have chosen the activities. We want to include the community and have decided to read the names of the students who have lost their lives due to bullying across the nation at two games this week.”
Libby shared that she and teacher Michele Haberlach had attended a community meeting with the sheriff’s office and local EMTs to coordinate a plan for any potential emergencies at the school. An outside consultant who specializes in emergency planning was brought in to provide insight and assistance.
“It was really interesting and it will be a great process for the community to go through some sort of a drill,” Libby said. “Michele Haberlach is handy to have around as she does emergency planning for the Army.”
Libby told the board that teachers had been discussing the barriers that may be keeping kids from being successful, whether it is friends at school, personal, or problems at home.
“Teachers have talked about taking one or two more students under their wing,” Libby said, “to give them another adult to be connected with.”
Superintendent Bob Garrett shared that enrollment had gone down 1.5 students since January and touched on the coming ballot.
He also let them know about an audit set to begin next week. He expects it to go well.
“Every three years the district gets audited,” Garrett said. “A representative from the Vancouver office plans to start next Thursday. She thinks she will be on site for two weeks.”
The next meeting will be February 24 at 5:30 p.m.