Mapleton preschool a ‘steppingstone’ toward district’s success


Mapleton school board discusses preschool, menu

Oct. 19, 2019 — Mapleton School Board celebrated the soft opening of the school’s preschool program in its monthly meeting last Wednesday, while also discussing the school lunch menu and security.

“Six kiddos came today, and another group will come tomorrow,” Superintendent Jodi O’Mara reported. “And then Monday morning and Tuesday morning is half a day. Thursday is a full day for group, and then on Monday the 28th, they all come together for the full day.”

Last minute preparations for the preschool was a community wide effort, with parents, grandparents and anyone willing to help coming in to paint, put together furniture and clean the classroom.

“We even had high school seniors come over and assemble the cubbies,” O’Mara said. “It’s neat to have the oldest kids on campus come and put together the cubbies for the smallest students on campus.”

O’Mara said that the classroom’s transformation had been “absolutely amazing,” and thanked everyone that helped in getting the space ready.

At that point, O’Mara read aloud some comments that parents had written about the first day of school.

“Preschool came at a perfect time as my girls have been wanting to go with school with their big sister,” Janine Halverson wrote. “My girls love to learn and are ready to socialize. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.”

“The preschool adds an important steppingstone for students, parents and the community,” another parent said in their letter.

A third parent added, “My daughter is so excited for preschool and we are happy that a preschool was available for her to go to because she was so ready.”

O’Mara stated that after years of hard work, it was extraordinary to finally see students in the classroom.

“I think I was more excited than anybody [on opening day], taking pictures and greeting the parents.  It was just phenomenal. I loved it,” she said.

It was mentioned that a parent from outside the district had enrolled a student into the program, paying out of pocket costs, instead of the free tuition that in-district parents receive. In-district students receive priority over out-of-district students, but board member John Simington wondered what would occur if too many out-of-district students signed up for the program, which currently is not at full capacity.

“It would be a good problem to have, but I could easily see a scenario where we’re at capacity, and then two kids move in from out of area and we’re too full to let them in. What do we do then?” Simington asked.

The district does not currently have guidelines for such an issue, but O’Mara said they would work on finding a solution.

Next, the discussion shifted to the school lunch menu, specifically the information printed on it.

“There’s been a lot of chatter about healthy food,” board member Mizu Burruss said, stating that there had been some online comments criticizing the apparent lack of healthy foods available to students, per the released menu.

 “I think we should be aware that there are parents that are tuning in and interested in making sure the food is healthy for the kids,” Burruss said.

O’Mara agreed, saying, “It’s hard when you look at the menu,” referring to the minimalist monthly menu. Monday the 21st lists only a muffin for breakfast and a corn dog for lunch.

“What it doesn’t say clearly is that there’s always two entree options,” she said. “And then there’s at least seven salad bar options.”

The students have fruits and vegetables daily, with O’Mara recalling a moment that week when a third grader came up to her and said, “I really like salad now!”

“I thought, ‘Yay!’” O’Mara said. “That’s the hard part about just going by what the menu says we’re eating. It’s not just a muffin for breakfast. Its string cheese or peaches or an apple or banana.”

Burruss stated that parents did defend the servings online but was concerned that some parents out there would be concerned that the kids were simply having a slice of pizza and a muffin throughout the day. O’Mara suggested that they change the menu to ensure that parents, and students, know all available food options at school.

“It funny we’re talking about this,” O’Mara said. “I got contacted by someone, and I’m not sure if she wants her name up there, but she wants to support healthy snacks for Mapleton students. She wants to provide high quality snacks like string cheese.”

The woman has suggested donating up to $10,000 for the project, which the board called an “extraordinary” gesture.

Finally, the school board reviewed options for upgrading Mapleton’s security system with brand new surveillance cameras throughout the district. Board members heard a presentation from Eugene firm Security Monster on the possibility of placing new cameras throughout the hallways and parking lots in the district, as well as in areas such as the student commons.

“I see the need, clearly,” Burruss commented, while asking if there would be any backlash to a more robust system. “I haven’t heard any reaction to the surveillance of the cameras,” she added, pointing out that they have been helpful in addressing issues within the school.

The district has received multiple bids on the security system and will most likely make a final decision during their next meeting after a cost comparison can be made.

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