Nestucca School District is growing in more ways than just enrollment.
After its $25.7 million, 20-year bond passed on May 15, the school district has not only been gearing up for the upcoming 2018-19 school year, but for the process of completely upgrading its soon to be K-8 school.
Superintendent Misty Wharton said the district is currently in the pre-design phase and they will soon be having workshops starting in September and October.
“In the workshops we’ll have our architects and engineers meet with staff, the board and students to talk about what the wishes, needs and wants are for the new facility,” she said.
From the pre-design phase, they will move to the design phase and then into the schematic phase. Wharton said around June they should be starting construction on the elementary campus.
A big piece of the bond is to alter and improve the water system, as well as upgrading safety standards. That would include getting rid of the asbestos, the lead paint and updating plumbing and electrical.
As it stands now, there will be an addition of roughly 48,000 sq. ft. to the campus. In the new construction there will be a larger cafeteria, new gymnasium, music and band room, boys and girls locker rooms and a commons area.
“It’s a facelift, but new and something that will last hopefully 60-70 years,” Wharton said.
The upgrade could not come at a better time, since the Nestucca enrollment numbers appear to be trending upwards. According to Wharton, the elementary school has received a 20 percent boost in students this year with 42 new Nestucca students bringing their total up to 260.
Wharton said the sudden jump has baffled her and the staff, but it is not uncommon to see a small jump this time of year.
“I can’t figure it out because there’s really nowhere affordable to live around here,” Wharton said. “I think when the Headlands and the Meridian went in we initially saw a little surge of families coming in and we always see a little boost this time of year because people will come visit and really enjoy it and decide to move here.”
More students means the need for more teachers and Nestucca has hired a higher than normal number of teachers for the upcoming year. The Jr/Sr High School has two new teachers in Daniel DiCrispino (grades seven and eight English and social studies) and Kevin Filosi (technology instructor).
The Elementary School has four new staff members in Alyssa Roberts (first grade), Melissa Gilmore (fifth grade), Heidi Morrell (first grade) and Daniela Moreno Gutierrez (district counselor). It is an unusually high number of new staff members according to Wharton and she said they are still in the process of hiring another kindergarten teacher to accommodate the number of students. The number of new teachers may be something Nestucca Schools will get used to seeing each year in the future.
“We’ve been anticipating that to be the trend for the next couple of years because some of our more veteran teachers will be heading to retirement,” Wharton said.
Among the new staff, three are recent college graduates, another has no prior teaching experience and the rest are well versed in the teaching world. Wharton said her approach to hiring is to get people with the best character that will fit the needs of the school.
“I always think you hire the best person regardless of experience,” Wharton said. “If I get a read that they are a good human being and are going to do a good job, that’s who I go with. There’s no science to it, you just go with your gut.”
Among the new teachers is Heidi Morrell, who is originally from Wyoming where she began teaching and has spent the last three years teaching at Yaquina View Elementary School in Newport. Morrell has taught kindergarten through second grade and will be teaching first grade this upcoming year. Morrell said she has already fit right in to the small school.
“I like the flow and how everyone is very collaborative and really friendly,” Morrell said. “The environment and the culture seems strong, positive and really student-centered. We are all here with the right mindset.”
Moving to a rural school district can be tough for some teachers who are used to the hustle and bustle of the city life. However for Morrell, she is well suited for the small town school lifestyle.
“This is a small rural district, similar to the schools I was at in Wyoming, which is really cool because I like that feel and that culture,” Morrell said. “The love for the students is definitely personified here.”
Nestucca Schools have completely revised their food service program for the upcoming school year. At the elementary school, all kids qualify to eat meals for free. Wharton said the school now serves a free breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack before elementary students get on the bus.
At the Jr/Sr High School, students all qualify to eat free breakfast and afterschool snack. In addition to the free meals, the school has also increased food options to three options per day, instead of one.
Nestucca was also one of 24 Oregon schools to be awarded the 21st century Community Learning Center Grant, from the Oregon Department of Education.
“We’ve been funded at $1.5 million for five years to offer afterschool programs for students in our district,” Wharton said. “We get to feed them two more times, they’ll have time for homework and something recreational and then they’ll have some type of enrichment activity.”
Nestucca will partner with other community organizations such as Food Roots, Community Arts Project, Nestucca Valley Early Learning Center and Neskowin Valley School for this after school program.
“It will start Nov. 5 and it will have a summer school component also,” Wharton said. “There will be more details about this soon, but we’re pretty excited because it meets a growing need for our kids and their families.”