Initiatives ‘really happening’ this school year for Mapleton

Board hears updates on preschool, mental health, Career Technical Ed

Sept. 25, 2019 — The Mapleton School District Board of Directors held its start-of-the-year meeting last Wednesday, discussing the district’s new preschool, mental health initiatives, a possible new bus system coming through the town and progress on a newly designed arts/woodworking space.

Superintendent Jodi O’Mara began the meeting with an update on the newly created preschool.

“Currently we have 15 students, 11 are 4-year-olds and four of them are three-year-olds,” she said. “We do have some kiddos that aren’t three yet that are pre-registered. What we decided is that kids can start when they’re three. But if they turn three throughout the year, and we have room, they can register and apply to come. We didn’t feel there was any reason to say they had to wait till the beginning of the school year. The kiddos that have been there can help teach the new kiddos coming in.”

The district has been working on getting a preschool in the region for at least six years.

“It’s so amazing to see this come to fruition,” O’Mara said. “It was always a ‘pie in the sky dream,’ but what a great dream. And now it’s here. … I still have to pinch myself and ask if this is going to happen. It’s really happening.”

The preschool is set for an open house on Tuesday, Oct. 3, though participants will be limited to preschool enrollees and their families so that parents can learn routines and where the students will be dropped off.

In other news from the meeting, O’Mara praised the work of the new school counselor, Brittany Anderson.

“I’m not sure how we ever did it without her. She’s amazing and we are lucky to have her,” O’Mara said, pointing out that Anderson had already been meeting with students so regularly that the district needed to extend her hours from four half-days to three-half days and one full day.

Mapleton Junior and High School Principal Brenda Moyer said, “Brittany has been clear that she’s not a psychologist and she says her role is more like a guidance counselor.”

Anderson functions more as a sounding board for students on a wide variety of issues.

“It could be friend stuff, it could be family stuff, it could be issues at school, it could be just someone to talk to, or it could be having issues with schoolwork,” Anderson told the Siuslaw News last month. “There’s a ton of different things that students will come see me for.”

The counselor also does small group support as well as teach a social-emotional learning curriculum to the students.

Anderson is one component of a wider push by the district to bring mental health respite to the upriver region’s children. On Monday, Mapleton School District announced that PeaceHealth Peace Harbor had hired a new Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) for the Mapleton Community Resource Center. That soon-to-be-open facility, which will be located on school district grounds, will provide counseling for children and teens, care coordination and referral help, family counseling, parent education and behavioral assessment for students.

“I see the resource center being an immediate support for a crisis,” O’Mara said, explaining that district staff will work in tandem with the resource center to address student crises.

While Anderson, along with O’Mara and Moyer, will work with students on individual needs throughout the year, sometimes issues arise that need clinical help.

“Some of the crises that we are seeing are a lot higher and deeper, with a quicker need,” said O’Mara. “That could be anything from suicidal ideation to mental health issues that would be immediate referrals over there.”

In the case of a referral, the district would get parent permission to send the students to the resource center. While there, the LCSW could work more in depth with students, holding the ability to diagnosis issues such as mood disorders or developmental disabilities.

Although the LCSW will not have the power to prescribe medication, the social worker will be linked into the Peace Health network and will be able to make referrals within the network for additional medical support.

The Mapleton Community Resource Center is part of the Western Lane Health Network, which is also opening a facility on the grounds of the Siuslaw School District that will have identical services.

But unlike Siuslaw, Mapleton hopes that its resource center’s services will eventually expand to include walk-in-clinic services, such as general health checkups. However, for the time being, the center is strictly focusing on mental health.

The next topic of discussion was a possible bus route that could be coming through Mapleton.

“I got an email from Stephanie Sarles from Siuslaw Vision and she has been in communication with the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), and they’re talking about the Florence to Eugene bus service that’s coming soon,” O’Mara reported, stating that the Vision had been advocating for a stop in Mapleton with LCOG, which is hoping to identify a service provider for the route, with service possibly beginning in early 2020. The service provider will be responsible for figuring out bus stops along the route, and O’Mara and the Vision were hoping that Mapleton would be able to advocate for a stop.

“They’re trying to figure out the stops because there has to be parking for people who get on the stop. They’re looking at Buds for You, Banner Bank or Riverview Market,” O’Mara said. “It’s pretty darn exciting, being able to ride to Florence.”

O’Mara then presented the design options for the new “Home of the Sailors” sign that will soon be placed atop the high school. The original sign had been removed due to the school’s renovation in the past couple years.

The two designs were nearly identical to the original design, sans a different font size for a few words, and the only difference between the designs were size — one small, one big. The school board, and the students in attendance at the meeting, preferred the larger size.

“It’s because we’re proud!” O’Mara said with a laugh.

A date on when the sign would be placed was not given.

At that point, Moyer gave an update on the high school’s new Chromebook initiative. Every high school student is assigned a Chromebook which they pick up in the morning. Throughout the day, they use apps such as Google classroom that helps with, and stores, their homework. At the end of the day, they turn in the Chromebooks for overnight charging.

“It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “They do a lot of assignments on it. All of the great academic features are there, so they don’t need their cell phones. They might disagree with that, but it’s become more and more difficult to get students to focus on their work and not worry about messages.”

The district is starting off with the high school, but are seeking additional funding to obtain Chromebooks for the middle school.

Finally, Moyer gave progress on the school district’s attempt to turn the currently unused woodshop building into a multipurpose area that could serve for a whole host of classes, including art and career-technical education (CTE) related programs.

“It’s an interesting building,” said Moyer. “Over time, it’s been primarily a woodshop. There’s been welding and some metals as well. But we want to make it open ended.”

In its heyday, the woodshop was able to support over 100 students when the school had a strong woodshop program, which has since been disbanded.

“Being a small school, a lot of times our programs are based on who we hire, their license, their interests, their skills,” Moyer explained. “Currently we don’t have anyone on staff who has woodworking skills, welding skills or metalworking skills. That doesn’t mean that in the future, as we hire or our CTE program grows, that we wouldn’t have people in our community that would be willing to share their passion for welding and do a short, six-week unit. So we’re trying to make sure we have the facilities to orchestrate that.”

By reworking the current space, the school could make room for both CTE and other programs, such as art.

“There’s going to be a kiln, a space for painting and different artforms. We’re going to restructure everything,” Moyer said.

But to get to that point, the area is going to need to be cleared of some equipment.

“We have funky things that are worth the money to the right person,” Moyer said, presenting a list of surplus equipment that the district is looking to sell.

The list includes a bench grinder, a utility trailer, a radial arm saw and a re-saw, which the school hopes could raise thousands of dollars for the schools. The district will be selling the items through a public surplus website.

“If we can get these things out of there, we will be on our way to starting to clean it up to a usable space, and a cool space,” Moyer said.

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