Mapleton School Board discusses pre-school

At its recent meeting, school board topics included field trips, preschool, state testing

Feb. 1, 2023 - The Mapleton School Board of Directors met for its monthly meeting on Jan. 18. Just prior to the meeting, most of the board had joined the community for a Family Fun Night at the Mapleton High gym. 

The celebration continued when the meeting began as January is National School Board Appreciation Month. To commemorate the event, each director received a gift from the district. On the back of a framed image is a quote that read, “There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

Mapleton Elementary Principal Brenda Moyer gave credit to Cassie Barrows as a big reason this creation came to fruition.

Next, during her elementary school update, Moyer mentioned that when moving to the elementary school this year one of her goals was to increase field trips elementary kids can participate in.

“In the fall we went and visited local community resources and had breakfast at the Lions Club,” said Moyer. “Then we went to the pumpkin patch. We’re doing the Fall Folk Festival next. Then, we’ve never been to the Umpqua Discovery Center. That’s the exploratory center that has been in Reedsport for a long time.”

She also mentioned working with Oregon Coast School of Art in Gardiner and some trips to Whitaker Creek in the next few weeks.

Superintendent Sue Wilson mentioned that, a few weeks ago while the community was dealing with water shortages, Mapleton Preschool closed for four days.

While the other Mapleton schools stayed open, having the very young kids use porta-potties seemed daunting. Instead, it was decided to ‘invest in staff time’ for those four days.

“That gave time for us to support planning conversations,” explained Wilson.

The staff met with early-learning specialists and traveled to see a “preschool promise” program in Junction City.

“The mission and vision county and statewide is high quality preschool programming for all students and that’s our goal,” said Wilson.

After a discussion amongst the board of the ways Junction City operates their preschool, Wilson listed some steps Mapleton School District had taken to improve things and lighten the load of the preschool staff. 

Wilson mentioned the district completed a fence around the preschool, ordered some shelving to help improve acoustics for students that may be having sensory issues and also made some minor changes to curriculum based on recommendations from those with experience. 

Wilson also mentioned they are looking at creative uses of space at the preschool. 

This discussion appears to have been prompted by challenges being faced with this year’s preschool class. According to preschool teacher Amber Tucker, the problems she’s seeing in her class may be more indicative of society than Mapleton Preschool specifically. Kids aren’t experiencing the simple act of “play” before they reach preschool.

“Kids in my class haven’t come to school knowing how to play,” said Tucker. “It’s because of a change in society, in my personal opinion, a lot of kids don’t learn how to play until they reach my class which creates some conflicts.”

The board expressed their commitment to making Mapleton Preschool a success. 

“We’re committed to making this work,” said Board Chair Michelle Holman. “We don’t have the solutions in place yet and it’s going to take time. I think some of us feel an extra body in the classroom is crucial. We’re going to keep talking about this and you’re [Tucker] going to keep us informed. Amber, you are an amazing asset to this school. We want this to be successful and we want you to enjoy your work. We’re going to keep talking and moving forward and also not just talking but taking concrete action.”

The district’s building formally known as the Siuslaw Regional Aquatic Center was discussed. 

Wilson mentioned that discussions about the building will be included in all community engagement events moving forward and that many ideas were being discussed. 

“It’s kind of fun to dream about that space,” said Wilson. “There’s a big interest and a large legacy and all those things from the pool. The pool may not be a reality and we’ve talked about that a lot. So, what else might be a reality? First, we have to figure out how to keep that building standing.”

Director Mizu Burruss mentioned that she understood that the Siuslaw Regional Aquatic Center had dissolved as an entity, sometime in the last month or two. 

Wilson mentioned Feb. 9 is Senior Night for both the boys and girls basketball teams. Also, the district will showcase art from elementary, middle and high school that same night. While the basketball games are played in the gymnasium, the art will be displayed in the hallways just outside its doors. 

Director Andrea Milbrett brought up the point that it might be a good night to not charge for admission to the basketball games. Wilson and the board agreed. 

The last the important discussion was about state testing. As of late Mapleton has been an “opt-in” district meaning parents are required to proactively request that their child is given the state’s standardized tests. There have been threats from the state in the past to withhold funding from districts that don’t give their students state standardized tests. According to Chair Holman, they have yet to follow through with such threats.

Chair Holman is part of a state-wide effort against state testing. She will give a presentation next month and the board will vote to determine what direction Mapleton School District will take moving forward.

To see the January meeting in full go to WcVr6Y5bGyQ.

The Mapleton School District Board of Directors meets on the third Wednesday of each month at Mapleton High School. Their next meeting is Feb. 15 at 6 p.m.