Election coming to Redmond School District for board vacancy in May

The Redmond School District will need to fill a vacant position on its school board in May.

On Thursday, the district announced that chairman Tim Carpenter will be resigning after two, six-year stints on the panel.

The Board of Directors is now seeking qualified people to apply for Position #4.

The term ends in 2023.

Candidates who are interested in applying to fill the position must file a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination for office with the Deschutes County Clerk by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 26.

Filing forms are available at the Deschutes County Clerk’s office, located at 1300 NW Wall Street, Suite 202, in Bend and online at deschutes.org/clerk.

The board consists of five members elected at large.

Those interested must be registered voters in the district and must have been residents within the district for one year immediately preceding the appointment.

Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. on April 1, 2021.

Crook County School District will hold election for open board position

Zone #4 of the Crook County School District is looking for a new board member to represent the area.

Walter Wagner resigned from his position late last week to focus on other life goals and projects.

The school district said his resignation is effective immediately, and that he has served on the school board since 2015.

“The school board appreciates Walt’s six years of service to the voters and taxpayers, students, parents and staff of the District. Serving on a school  board is not for the faint of heart. It is far more than one meeting a month. It takes time away from family, from business and from personal pursuits. Walt has been diligent and serious about the work. He will now be able to refocus on other priorities, and he leaves with the confidence that the District is in excellent shape, and he was a part of creating that,” explained Scott Cooper, Chair of the Crook County School Board.

On Monday, the school board met to decide between an appointment or regular election; it unanimously agreed to allow voters the opportunity to choose their own candidate.

The term will last from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023.

Wagner has been representing Zone #4, which includes Powell Butte south of Highway 126 and a small southwest portion of the city of Prineville.

Zone #4 is in purple on the bottom left

Citizens living in Zone #4 who are interested in serving on the school board should contact the Crook County Clerk’s Office.

Filing information can also be found here on the County Clerk’s website.

Two current board members, Chair Cooper and at-large member Gwen Carr, are both up for re-election on May 18th.

The filing deadline for those positions is Thursday, March 18th. In order to allow a new candidate to stand for election in May for Zone #4, the Crook County Clerk’s Office is extending the filing deadline for that seat to March 24th.

Registered voters interested in serving must file a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination with the County Clerk’s Office by 5pm on March 24th.

▶️ While fall sports ramp up, COVID keeps Jefferson Co. volleyball on sidelines

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

If she’s lucky, Culver High junior Lindsey Lamb will get to play just a handful of volleyball games this year.

“I think me and just like the other people here and other players on the team are angry and frustrated with it,” Lamb said of the current situation for athletes at her school. 

High school sports are ramping up across Central Oregon with athletes in traditional fall sports ready to get into the game.

But a mishmash of COVID restrictions tied to a county’s virus transmission level led to some inequities across different sports.

Cross country, soccer, football and volleyball are currently allowed for Deschutes and Crook counties, which this week both moved to the ‘high risk’ level. 

Jefferson County remains at ‘extreme risk’, but Madras and Culver High schools can still play full-contact, full-gear football games.

Volleyball players are still stuck on the sidelines, though, because the sport isn’t allowed in ‘extreme risk’ counties.

“It’s really disappointing that other sports can play but not volleyball,” Lamb said.

If Jefferson County doesn’t move to ‘high risk’ on March 9, there will be no volleyball season.

Lamb’s boyfriend plays football for Culver High.

They have five games scheduled this year.

“I couldn’t really put it together because football is even more of a contact sport,” Lamb added.

Madras High School Athletic Director Mark Stewart says his volleyball players are also disheartened.

“The belief is with indoor sports you can contract COVID more easily and with outdoor sports you can’t,” Stewart said.

Madras and Culver students are back to in-person learning, full-time.

“It’s really hard to explain to the girls and the community how we can be fully in school and all other sports are able to play, but volleyball can’t,” Stewart added.

Students even take part in indoor gym classes.

“We have 23 kids in a PE class right now, but we can’t play volleyball,” Stewart said. “Things just don’t match up with school metrics and county metrics.”

Madras High senior Hannah Holliday was looking forward to this volleyball season.

“I was planning on playing my senior season,” Holliday said, “One last season, but things just didn’t go our way.”

Holliday didn’t want to wait for a season that might never come, so she’s switching to soccer.

“Just ’cause they are able to compete and I really want to compete my senior season,” she said. “I thought if I can’t compete in volleyball, I will go play on another team and compete in soccer.”

March 1 is the competition start date for Oregon high schools.

▶️ Prineville mother frustrated with limited curriculum on Black History Month

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

What did you learn today?

That’s a question Prineville resident Amber Vandenack asks her 6th grade daughter every day after school.

But it’s what the 11-year-old Crook County Middle School student, who is black, wasn’t mentioning that stood out to Vandenack.

“Well, did you learn anything about Black History? Because it was February 1st the first day I asked,” Vandenack said. “She was like no, and I put it off a little bit. I said okay it’s only the first day, let’s give it a week and see how it goes.”

A week went by, Vandenack’s daughter still reported back nothing.

Vandenack then called the school and the superintendent, she was told that Black History Month is not part of the school’s curriculum and it’s up to teachers whether to discuss it.

“I was mad,” Vandenack said. “I cussed a few times.”

According to Jason Carr with the Crook County School District, students do learn about Black History.

“It is something that is covered,” Carr said. “It is something that we believe is important.”

However, there is not a single month of the curriculum devoted to Black History Month.

Assistant principal Marques Hase says this is because Crook County Middle School takes a “holistic” approach to Black history, incorporating it into lessons throughout the entire school year.

“We focus on Black History throughout the content throughout the year,” Marques Hase, assistant principal said. “Not specifically just Black History Month, just throughout the year.”

Vandenack says what frustrates her the most is that slavery and segregation is the bulk of the black history her daughter is learning.

“It breaks my heart that my daughter only hears the bad,” Vandenack said. “Doesn’t hear about the good things that African American and black people do.”

Since our conversation with Vandenack, she spoke with school district curriculum director Stacy Smith.

Smith is hoping the school district can find unique ways to celebrate Black History Month with more positive content.

“The school district is happy to partner with the family and weave in additional lessons that meet the request,” Carr said. “We value the opportunity to have an open conversation with our parents to ensure our schools are a welcoming and positive place for all of our students of color.”

▶️ Madras High students return to full time, in-person classes

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Bend-La Pine kids are back in school and Redmond will be following suit soon. 

Students are also back on campus and in classrooms in Madras.

Madras High School junior Anna Park said online classes were draining.

“Online school kind of hit me like a truck,” Park said.

“That definitely had a toll on my mental health and I think that I am still trying to recuperate from that, but being back will help hopefully,” added park.

Students like Park arrived this morning, finding several COVID safety protocols in place.

“I think it is going to take some getting used to, but I am just glad to be back,” Park said.

Principal Brian Crook says each grade is divided into four sections of the school.

“We have four entry points for our students, each grade level has a specific entry point,” Crook said.

Students don’t leave their pods, instead, the teachers are the ones who travel to different rooms.

“Our teachers move from class to class and our students stay in class,” Crook added.

Lunch is a different process and perhaps the biggest challenge, according to dean of students and teacher Allen Hair.

“When you have 500 kids, how are you going to have them sit, keep them socially distanced and safe?” Hair said.

Hair and several other staff members decided to have two different lunches, plastic barriers, and have the students socially distanced on the gym bleachers.

“I’ve been teaching for 26 years and I think I was more nervous today then I’ve ever been just because of all the protocols and all of the effort that has gotten to this point, but it’s great to see the kids again,” Hair said.

Several students said school is nothing like before.

“It’s totally different,” said MHS senior Jacob Hulsey. “Trying to learn how to go to school again, I guess.”

Whether you are at a desk or standing in front of the class, today was a big moment.

“That’s why I got into teaching,” said business teacher Jerry Shaw. “I did not do it to sit behind a computer. I did it to try and mentor, build relationships with student and have them reach heights they never knew they could.”

For students like Park, it’s finally a step in the right direction.

“I think this is kind of the first step to having a normal year next year,” Park said.

▶️ RHS grad reflects on being SkillsUSA Diesel Equipment Tech state champ

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Working on cars, usually means getting your hands greasy and dirty.

That wasn’t the case for Redmond’s Garrett Eastham – who proved his skills recently under the hood, while only touching a keyboard.

Eastham competed in SkillsUSA automotive competitions since his freshman year of high school.

The contest, which is usually very hands on, working on cars, semi trucks and parts, was changed to a virtual competition in 2020.

The competition turned into an online test.

Garrett had an interest in automotives at a young age.

“I was about 12 years old, my dad had an orange pickup that I always played in a bunch,” Garrett said. “I always wanted that pickup as my own and I did, so I built that pickup from the ground up.”

His dad, Robert Eastham, is an automotive teacher at Redmond High.

He says Garrett’s interest grew at RHS.

“He chose to compete in SkillsUSA at a regional level, and continued on through the program and became what they call a concentrator,” Robert said.

SkillsUSA is a technical student organization.

“They’ll bring new semis in and actually create issues the students must figure out what’s wrong with the semi and wrong with the engine, why it might not run,” Robert said about previous competitions.

Garrett placed third in the Diesel Equipment Technology competition his junior year.

“Online was actually more difficult for the kids because they don’t get to have that ability to see the part and touch and feel, which they are used to,” Robert said.

Despite the challenge, Garrett became state champion.

“It was …different,” Garrett said about the 2020 contest. “I wish I would have been at the competition to receive the medal from the presidents and stuff, but I’m glad I did win it. I enjoyed the experience.”

Garrett is now enrolled at OIT and hopes to eventually find a job with NASA or Tesla.

He offered some words of advice to young automotive students.

“Take your time, a lot of the online programs are good for physics and just the knowledge base,” Garrett said. “You can learn a lot from that. There will be plenty of time for shop work afterwards.”

▶️ Madras High holds senior celebration, preparing for return of class of 2021

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Students coming back to in-person learning is a cause for celebration.

That celebration made its way to Madras High School Friday.

It’s been 10 months since the pandemic closed schools in Jefferson County.

Today Madras High seniors stepped back into the building.

“It was so good to see them and they were really excited to see staff and be back in this environment,” said Madras High Principal Brian Crook.

MHS took several COVID-19 protocols including, temperature checks, masks, social distancing, as well as having students in pods of 20 per area.

Two pods were in the gym.

“One session they went to was a celebration of what you would see in a classic pep assembly,” Crook said. “A staff dance, skits and motivational speaker.”

During the assembly another two pods were in informational meetings.

“What it is going to look like when they return to school and about graduation requirements and staying on track for graduation,” Crook added.

After an hour, the two pods switched places.

MHS saw 80 of their 130 seniors show up to the celebration.

Crook added, it was an emotional moment for both students and staff.

“One of our secretaries was in the gym watching the kids and she got emotional and teary eyed, just finally having kids back in the building,” Crook said.

The idea behind the event was more than a celebration.

“I think it was really important to let those seniors know how much we care about them,” Crook said.

Madras High School set a goal to have limited in-person learning back with a staggered start by February 1.

▶️ BLP lays out school bus COVID safety plans for return to class

By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

The Bend-La Pine School District put protocols in place for students riding school buses.

“Drivers will be sanitizing the bus after each run,” said Kim Crabtree, transportation director for Bend-La Pine Schools. “Each student will have an assigned seat, they will sit in that same seat every day.”

Kids planning on riding the bus are expected to be COVID-19 safe.

“Each student will be asked to wear a mask or come to the bus with a mask,” Crabtree said. “If they don’t have one or forgotten theirs, we have one available for them. All of our drivers will be masked.”

Parents are also being called on to do their part.

We are asking all families to register so that we can assign seats and we can know who is on the bus,” Crabtree said.

To see pick up location, time and any transfers, you need to log in on e-Link.

A student’s login information is their student ID and password is their birthday.

The district has around 145 bus drivers and has taken steps to ensure safety of the drivers and students on board.

“A vaccine has been offered to all of our special needs drivers and special monitors and substitute drivers that drive for special needs students,” Crabtree added. “The availability for vaccines for our general education drivers, I believe is coming late next week.”

The district also says it is prepared for COVID scenarios.

“If we find out that there is a student that possibly has been exposed, we save our contract tracing logs, we would turn those over to our nursing staff and that would start contacting families and the county gets involved in that.”

A typical school bus holds around 84 kids on average, but because students need to stay socializing distant, buses will now only hold 40 kids registered to ride.

▶️ Parents, teachers react to Bend-La Pine Schools reopening plan

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Christina Kennedy is a mother of three and first grade teacher at Lava Ridge Elementary.

When she heard students will soon be returning back to school, she described it as a sigh of relief.

Kennedy said all of her kids will return in some capacity.

She also thought the staggered start among grades was a good call by the school district.

“With the numbers that we have and just all the different schools, and all the different programs, and different types of schools and all of that,” Kennedy said. “I really think it’ll feel less tumultuous.”

Christie Otley, also a mother of three, said she agrees.

Otley is happy the school district is providing a choice to return, but she is leaving that decision up to her kids.

“Overwhelmingly they wanted to go back,” Otley said. “My oldest son, he really likes the scheduling that Bend-La Pine online has provided for him and the flexibility. So he still hasn’t really given me a concrete answer on his.”

Not everyone feels as confident in reopening schools.

On our Facebook page, Mariah S. wrote, “our county is still in the extreme risk category.”

Amy M. also said, “nothing about school will be normal.”

As for teachers who don’t feel comfortable going back yet, Bend-La Pine Schools said they could sign up for a leave of absence and have their positions held for next year.

That deadline for that decision, however, has passed.

The school district also opened 10 to 15 positions to teach online for internal staff only.

“The district, as a whole for their purposes, has really done an amazing job” Kennedy said.

▶️ BLP Schools implements temporary grading scale; lowest grade possible is 50%

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Bend-La Pine Schools’ temporary “no zeros” policy is concerning to local parent Angela Keranen.

Keranen’s son is a freshman at Bend High School.

“The grades aren’t to make everyone feel good; they’re to indicate that the kids are learning the curriculum,” Keranen said. “He doesn’t have to do anything. So now he essentially passes, but he hasn’t learned anything all year.”

Middle and high schoolers will be graded on a 10 point scale, but the lowest failing grade they can receive is 50%.

According to the school district’s website, “A 50% represents an F, or half the points possible on a traditional 100 point scale, and will be the lowest possible grade reflected on any assignment or assessment.”

Keranen worries this will hide how many kids are truly struggling, including her son, who she fears will fall behind.

“It’s only going to make more of a burden next year when they go back,” Keranen said. “They’ve got these grades that look like they passed. They didn’t learn the materials.”

Jim Boen, executive director of BLP’s middle schools, says the school district saw a concerning number of students failing.

The grading scale was implemented to help failing students recover and climb out of the F range.

“Any grade change at any other level, from a B to an A or even a D to a C, only requires a 10 percentage point jump,” Boen said. “Whereas a 0 to 60 is obviously much larger.”

Keranen believes the change was made to benefit the school district. Boen said that’s not true.

“It was really about helping students be successful,” Boen said. “Feeling successful, and feeling like they had a shot.”

“They’re not going to feel better by a 50,” Keranen said. “Mine doesn’t, now he thinks it’s a joke that he doesn’t have to try very hard. Which now, we’ve decreased incentive.”

The new grading system will continue through this school year.

Bend-La Pine Schools has not yet released their reopening plan.