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Community Asked to Develop "Vision" for Clark Fork High School

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Lake Pend Oreille School District Chief Administrator Steve Battenschlag met with parents and community members at the school last week as a “first step” in developing a vision for what the community wants out of the school.

“I want the parents and the community to sit down together and decide what they want at the school and determine what’s the best way of providing that,” he explained to a group of almost 40 people. Past and present parents of students, current and former school board members, staff, community members and the school’s booster club were all represented.

The meeting with Battenschlag, organized by parent Pam Hewitt, was initially requested due to community concerns regarding the school’s compressed video classroom, and whether Battenschlag was going to take the equipment out of the school as part of his vision for a “lifelong learning” center at the district’s administration office in Ponderay. “The framework is one of evaluation,” Battenschlag said. “No decision has been made. The big picture is this needs to be the beginning of a consensus to define, or re-define, what the Clark Fork Jr/Sr High is going to be.”

Battenschlag explained for those present his vision for the district’s administration complex. “The Board bought the (former) Thorne building. It’s 20,000 square feet and we currently occupy 5,000. Plus there’s 2 1/2 acres of land next door. I have a vision of bringing post-secondary education to the community. I’d like Lake Pend Oreille School District to be the cradle that provides those services from birth to death. It’s a new idea and it’s in its infancy stage,” he added. “We’re taking, and want, input.”

Input is what he received, at least in regard to what the community wants at Clark Fork– and the opinion of those present was they want to keep the compressed video classroom at the school, and want an opportunity to come up with a plan to better utilize it.

 The classroom, which uses technology to connect with classrooms elsewhere in the area, serves a three-fold purpose: it allows students to take classes offered by other classrooms in the network; it allows students to take college level classes offered by North Idaho college; and it offers the community the opportunity, in the evenings, to take classes from the college as well. This is the area that concerns NIC’s director of distance education, Dr. Candace Wheeler. “We’ve tried a lot of different ways to get the community to participate,” she explained. “And the results were disappointing.”

People present, however, were quick to take exception to any statement that the community had been adequately informed, however, particularly after Wheeler stated over 3000 surveys had been sent. “I didn’t receive one,” stated Clark Fork’s Shirley Crawford, a sentiment that was echoed by all but one person in the room.”

Wheeler acknowledged that there might have been better ways to inform the community of what was available. Still, there are big decisions to be made regarding the future of the high-technology classroom.

The equipment was purchased almost five years ago with funding from an economic development council grant. That funding, for which NIC acts as the fiscal agent, pays for a site coordinator at the school and pays for upkeep and repairs to the equipment. The school district had to commit to providing space for the classroom, and to pay for the telephone line that operates the room– a cost of almost $400 a month. Eighty to 85% of that cost has been offset by a special rebate program that will end at the end of the five-year period. “This equipment is outdated,” Wheeler explained. “And at the end of five years, we’re going to be coming to you (the district) and asking, ‘do you want to own this equipment or do you want us to keep it?’ I don’t think you’re going to want it.”

 Wheeler went on to explain other types of equipment and programs that might better meet the needs of students at the school, as well as members of the community, including having NIC provide a teacher if enough people were interested in taking a class.

 “I say we take the rest of this year to figure this out,” Battenschlag told the group. “Let’s continue to meet, and decide exactly what it is you want to do here.”

Anyone interested in participating in those discussions is encouraged to call the school at 208-266-1131.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

education, Lake Pend Oreille School District, Steve Battenschlag, Clark Fork High School, Pam Hewitt, distance education, NIC, Dr. Candace Wheeler

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