MCKENZIE BRIDGE, Oregon (STPNS) -- FINN ROCK: After twelve weeks of school, superintendent Jim Thomas says he is, “Thrilled with the way things are going.” Contributing to that assessment was what he calls a ridiculously low disciplinary rate combined with, “A great staff that’s really in tune with the kids.”

At last Wednesday’s meeting of the McKenzie School Board, Thomas also outlined what’s planned for the future - from expanded academic courses to community outreach efforts and civic involvement for students.

In practice, those three approaches might be blended. One example is an elective science course the board approved on a 4 to 1 vote. Under the program, students will be working on a cooperative project with a local business, the Blueberry Patch in Leaburg. Science teacher Dave Carter said, “The largest part of growing blueberries is knowing what kind of soil you have and what the pH is.” Luckily, he added, the science lab already has several portable pH testers that can function in the field and interface with computers to download and analyze results.



As envisioned, fieldwork on Fridays would complement other topics currently taught in the science department like natural resources, biology, chemistry and environmental science. Thomas said costs for the program are estimated at the $4,000 to $5,000 already allocated in the district’s budget.

A potential community service program was also discussed. The superintendent reported that Reedsport currently includes 120 hours of service as part of their graduation requirements. “We need too train students to replace us,” Thomas said. Roles to be filled in the future could range from serving on the school board, track committee, chamber of commerce or planning commission, he added.

Identifying what sort of programs might be offered hasn’t yet been determined. “One of the advantages of a small school is we know people who might have things kids can do,” Thomas said. “We need to find out what their interest is because that keeps them in school and keeps them engaged.”

More course offerings could coming. During recent discussions at the state level, Thomas said he’s learned that a person with a special skill could go through a background check, apply for certification and receive a restricted license to teach for about $300. Soon after he found that out, the super said a teacher told him he was interested in teaching wood shop class at the end of school day. That news, he added, might mean McKenzie could offer a vocational class next semester.

“Those are things that would really help out our kids by giving them hands-on experience,” Thomas said. At a recent state school board conference it was reported that for every one high school student going on to college, seven are entering the work force without a degree. “We need to provide opportunities for those kids who want to get a certificate - whether it’s in welding, hospitality wood shop or small engines,” Thomas said. “You can’t prepare all kids the same way. One size does not fit all.”