April 23 2021
4:05 AM
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Stevenson-Carson School District reopens Wind River Middle School
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Story by The Oregon Herald Staff
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WA-Stevenson-Carson School District proudly announces the reopening of Wind River Middle School in Carson, Washington for students in grades 6-8. The building had been closed since 2012 for perceived savings in operations, however, the unprecedented challenges facing the district due to the pandemic led Superintendent Ingrid Colvard and the Board of Directors to reevaluate the school's closure.

When Colvard and the board reviewed the cost of operating the building, they determined that the district never recouped the savings initially estimated leading to the school's closure. "The cost of operating a school comes mainly from the size of overall student enrollment, not the facility itself," explained Colvard. "Since the district still had the same number of students after the school's closure that it had before closing the school, the savings ended up being nowhere near enough to justify leaving a functional facility shuttered, particularly given our current needs."

The Board of Directors voted to reopen Wind River Middle School to accommodate social distancing for COVID-19; to provide a more age-appropriate atmosphere by separating middle school students from much older high school students; and to plan for a future of potentially providing more robust learning opportunities if taxpayers vote to replace the Educational Programs & Operations (EP&O) Levy expiring at the end of 2020.

Offering a more age-appropriate learning environment for students Following the school's closure in 2012, the district's middle school students have been housed in the same facility as the high school, resulting in a socially disparate atmosphere. "The age discrepancy between the current facility's youngest students and its oldest students means that 12-year-olds are walking the same halls with 18-year-olds," said Colvard. "Studies have shown that such an age gap can impede the learning and social development of younger students."

The need of physical space to fight an ongoing pandemic In addition to resolving the age discrepancy by once again separating middle school students from high school students, the additional facility may permit students to make the transition from remote learning to returning to school earlier thanks to the extra physical space. "Social distancing demands a lot of physical room, something that would be difficult to accomplish with so many students in the Stevenson High School building," said Colvard. "By reopening Wind River Middle School, we have significantly more room at both facilities which will help support the transition to in-person learning."

Planning for the future of Wind River Middle School During the Board of Directors' October 8 work session meeting, the board discussed possible plans for the future of Wind River Middle School. "We should ensure we are offering our middle school students the opportunities to explore CTE," said Board Chair Jeff Wickersham. "Allowing students to discover CTE at a younger age could be key to increasing interest at the high school level." Wickersham also suggested holding open computer lab sessions for students to learn coding and experiment with computer science as an extracurricular opportunity.

Board members also suggested offering additional enrichment classes in art, robotics, and even secondary-language opportunities potentially starting in the sixth grade. "We want to offer a rich, world-class education for our kids," said Colvard. "I'm very excited about the ideas presented by the board and what they could mean for a well-rounded educational experience for the community's children."

Outside of school hours, the board emphasized the importance of using the facility as a touchstone for the Carson community. Board members discussed opening the school for community musical performances in the dedicated band and music room; and the potential of offering open gym sessions after school for exercise and athletics. "The Carson community has spoken to the need of having two dedicated schools in each of the towns our district serves," said Colvard. "Schools offer places for community members to hold meetings, concerts, and enjoy extracurricular activities when not in school hours, and the board and I believe Carson deserves to have this facility open once again."

However, many of the ideas and concepts brainstormed by the board will depend on the community's decision whether or not to replace the replacement EP&O levy which will be on the ballot before voters for the November 3 election. "We are still working toward the passage of our replacement levy as we will need those funds to engage any of these ideas," said Wickersham. "These are ideas we would love to do for our students, and while these suggestions won't be implemented tomorrow, we need to continue pushing forward to take steps to make this happen eventually for our students."

Help guide the district in planning for the future of Wind River Middle School! Stevenson-Carson School District invites and encourages the community to provide ideas for the future of Wind River Middle School.

If you have an idea, suggestion, or question regarding the reopening of Wind River Middle School, please reach out to Superintendent Ingrid Colvard directly via email at [email protected] or by calling the district office at (509) 427-5674.