School News

Booster Club Fundraiser Scams – Protect Your Donors!

It is that time of the year when reports of booster club fundraising scams are coming in again. We interviewed Joe Wolpin of Fundraising Zone to ask what booster club parents can do protect the people in their community.
Joe tells us, “Booster clubs count on fundraisers to help pay for the things that the school budget will not. This means that every year school booster clubs of all kinds hold fundraising events. Unfortunately unscrupulous con men w ill take advantage of the giving nature of many people.”
What are some practical steps boosters can take to educate their donors?
Joe continues, “Regular communication is the key. Use your official school booster club website or facebook to tell your community about your upcoming fundraiser events. Additionally, tell them this is the only official channel for fundraising. Tell your community you will never do any fundraising unless they read about it on the official booster club site.”
Joe concludes, “Finally, tell your community about the kinds of fundraisers you will never resort too. For instance, some scams involve robocalling every home in your neighborhood. It may be a good idea to warn your neighbors about scams like these. Furthermore, alert them your booster club would never use robocalling. This way if any scam calls are made they will know in advance. “

Protect Yourself

The following tips from the FBI can help you avoid these schemes:

  • Give to established charities or groups whose work you know and trust.
  • Be aware of organizations with copycat names or names similar to reputable organizations.
  • Be wary of new organizations that claim to aid victims of recent high-profile disasters.
  • Do your research. Use the Federal Trade Commission’s resources to examine the track record of a charity.
  • Give using a check or credit card. If a charity or organization asks you to donate through cash, gift card, virtual currency, or wire transfer, it’s probably a scam. Learn more about this trick from the FTC.
  • Practice good cyber hygiene:
    • Don’t click links or open email attachments from someone you don’t know.
    • Manually type out links instead of clicking on them. 
    • Don’t provide any personal information in response to an email, robocall, or robotext.
    • Check the website’s address—most legitimate charity organization websites use .org, not .com.
    • Source:

Media Contact
Company Name: Fundraising Zone
Contact Person: Joe Wolpin
Phone: (800) 645-6550
Address:337 Merrick Road Suite 5
City: Lynbrook
State: New York, 11563
Country: United States

School News

AHAS in the News

AHAS in the News

Vancouver Voice: Volume 3, Issue 12, May 7, 2009; page 9.


Cheers: To Washington State University Vancouver professor Susan Finley and her advanced-degree students who run the At Home At School program. The Columbian: July 21, 2007;  Page C6, Article ID: MERLIN_1805054.


Summer School and so much more. The Columbian: July 16, 2007; Page A1, Article ID: MERLIN_1793497.


Popsicle stick bridges make for sweet project. The Columbian: August 1, 2006; Page A1, Article ID: 2006213005.


Slow Foods nourishes At Home At School kids


CAMEO foundation donates $26,000 to WSU program


Grants aimed at three obesity-fighting efforts


School News

Power of Pivot: Students design device to help people move from cars to wheelchaird

CAMAS — Team Mean Machine’s laboratory is that of a mad scientist. The tireless whir of a dozen 3D printers and other machines working away alongside a team of genius engineers ensures there’s never a moment of complete silence — almost like the room itself is alive.

Outside the miniature factory, however, these geniuses lead relatively normal lives — as middle and high school students.

The laboratory in question is better known as Discovery High School’s project-based learning center. With the help of teachers and mentors, the students that make up Team Mean Machine design robots and devices to pique their own interests and compete in regional, national and even international competitions.

The device they’ve been developing lately — the Power Pivot — aims to improve the lives of those living with mobility limitations or physical disabilities.

The Power Pivot is a portable motorized disk designed to assist caregivers in transferring persons between wheelchairs, seats, beds and vehicles. The device uses a small remote with just two buttons — clockwise or counter-clockwise rotation — so users can safely rotate themselves without needing to apply any torque or force that can be painful or difficult for those with hip injuries or other mobility limitations.

Weighing just five pounds, the disk can be easily carried while still being capable of safely supporting 300 pounds at as many as 22 rotations. The disks are made-to-order, so they’re custom designed to the specific size and specifications of their customers.

Beginning production

Team mentor Bruce Whitefield, a career and technical instructor at Discovery High School who has served as the team’s mentor since 2008, said the idea for the disk came about when a neighbor of his came to him with a similar, cheaply made device they had been using in their home.

“So I brought in this cheap disk to school and asked my robotics team, ‘can you make this?,’ ” Whitefield said while slapping the flimsy plastic device onto a nearby table. Since that moment months ago, the team has gone through almost a dozen iterations of their first disk.

Students quickly identified what they called a “large market gap” for the product; many similar disks existed in hospitals but were stationary and expensive to produce. On the other hand, flimsy inexpensive devices existed for at-home use, but were ineffective and hard to use.

Odyssey Middle School student Taryn Cavill said Model 6.2, their latest Power Pivot, is intended to be big enough to fit larger feet while featuring a circumference that can still fit within the floor space of the average walker.

Right now, each Pivot costs about $80 to make and are being sold for $160. Any and all profits go to the school’s various STEM and robotics programs. The students’ goal is to lower the margin of production costs enough so that they can give them away for free.

“This product is intended for the at-home caregiver,” Whitefield said.

Discovery sophomore Jack Harding demonstrated how the motor’s housing, a black box snugly fixed on the corner of the disk, was individually printed so that it could fit all of the pieces of the motor in a small space.

Each housing takes about 12 hours to print, Harding said. He and teammate Silvia Pujol showed off a side room in the lab where a half-dozen of the 3D printers were busily creating parts. Small LCD screens on the printers’ bases showed just how much time was left on each project. In total, each disk takes about a week or so to create.

Haley Crowell, a student at Odyssey Middle School, used vinyl cutters to create stickers, labels, and smaller aspects of the machines with Adobe Illustrator.

“It’s a whole lot of trial and error,” said Will Jolley, a junior at Discovery. Jolley said he refers to himself as none other than “The Legend.”

Entering competitions

Team Mean Machine competes in the annual FIRST Robotics Competition — an international competition that features over 3,000 teams. This year, the team — made up of students from Camas, Hockinson and Washougal — was challenged to create a design in the category of health and fitness.

The innovation challenge began in January, and production started in April.

As the COVID-19 pandemic limited the team’s ability to work in person, students used a web-based collaborative software called OnShape, which allows them to work simultaneously from remote locations without having to download any additional software. Harding said it was easy to use, like Google Docs, and the convenience allowed the team to work efficiently.

“The gift of the innovation challenge was it shows us just how we can create things that benefit our community,” Jolley said.

The team has since filed for a patent — a painstaking process that the team says isn’t quite as fun as the other aspects of their production.

“It’s a lot of writing,” Cavill said, laughing.

“We had to find everything we could that this has that other ones don’t have so that people don’t copy ours. Because the amazing thing about this project is that it really fills a niche that feels unfilled,” Jolley said.

Team Mean Machine went on to finish as a semifinalist in the international competition.

The robotics class is also working on a project called the Reach Challenge on Dec. 17 — a similar competition that uses a video submission and details about the Pivot to show how the product can use engineering to positively benefit someone’s life.

Making a difference

As of today, the team has created eight or so disks, but they don’t want to create any more than 100. Mentor Brian Cavill, who is also father to team members Taryn and Brenden Cavill, has helped to use his previous connections in working with PeaceHealth and as a firefighter medic to identify uses and potential clients who could benefit from the Pivot.

“This product would have been perfect for a number of situations I saw,” Brian Cavill said. “But being in a hospital, I realized it’s not exactly the best use there. So we’ve been more of a guide to help show students, ‘here’s who might need them the most.’ ”

In addition to the pride of repeatedly perfecting their product, the students said it’s especially pleasing to see people get legitimate practical use out of the Power Pivot.

“It’s really great, even as just a student, to see how you can use your own skills to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Harding said.

With the mentors, the team has worked to continue identifying individual customers, other locations like elderly care facilities and companies that might want to buy the rights to the design.

That step forward would allow the students to spend more time working on more complex robotics projects that they love to spend time on, too.

Their next goal, Whitefield said, is to create something that utilizes a specific type of gear that the team had to custom-design for the Pivot. Since they buy materials in bulk, Whitefield joked that they’ve now got a thousand of this unique gear that’s got to be put to use somehow.

Until then, the mad student scientists in Camas will continue to make Pivots for people in the community who need them most.

“The Power Pivot project has been an amazing opportunity for team members to come forward to learn and use their skills while creating something that can really help a lot of people,” said Zach Ager, a senior at Washougal High and the vice president of the team.

School News

Clark County, Southwest Washington child care in crisis

In early 2020, Educational Service District 112 was serving more than twice the number of students in its child care and early education centers than it is today.

Since that time, Southwest Washington has lost a higher percentage of child care capacity than any other region in the state; about 25 percent of the region’s child care capacity has disappeared due to program closures since 2020, according to ChildCare Aware of Washington.

The child care industry is suffering from many sides, with centers not being able to compensate staff well, thus having employees fleeing the industry. Families are already struggling to pay what the centers charge for care, causing issues for the families and their employers. A state program and federal proposal aim to alleviate the issues.


Prior to the pandemic, ESD 112, which runs more than 300 local programs, was operating 40 early education and child care centers in Southwest Washington. Then the pandemic hit, forcing the closure of 33 locations; more than 200 staff were laid off. The number of programs has been built back up to 20 centers in the region, and ESD 112 was forced to permanently eliminate the unsubsidized spaces offered in its centers for kids and babies under 5 years old. Instead of serving 2,200 kids like it was pre-pandemic, it’s serving less than a thousand.

“It’s pretty dire,” said Jodi Wall, executive director for early care and education at ESD 112.

The problem now is not a statewide quarantine; it’s a massive workforce crisis. The district can’t open any more before- and after-school care centers because it doesn’t have the staff.

“We have about 250 school-aged families on a wait list,” said Wall.

But finding staff can be difficult because child care workers are not compensated well, Wall said, adding they make less than dog groomers.


As of 2020, the average hourly wage for child care workers in the Portland-Vancouver metro area was $15.18, with an average annual wage of $31,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual wage across all industries in the metro area was $61,860.

Still, the centers can’t charge families any more.

“Families can’t afford to pay more, but (child care) businesses can’t operate on the revenue they’re getting from family pay,” said Wall.

What families can pay is not enough to cover costs and provide a competitive compensation package compared to other industries.

“It’s just expensive to provide high-quality child care and it’s more than families can afford to pay,” she said. “We have kind of a broken system.”

Many of the child care workers have become overwhelmed in their jobs since the pandemic struck, said Kelli Bohanon, director of early learning programs at the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families.

“What we’re hearing from the field across the state is burnout,” she said. “The pandemic really did its work and people are burned out.”

During the statewide quarantine, many facilities were shut down, and people leaned into other jobs that were more stable, she said.

The workforce crisis became more obvious as centers began hiring over the summer, but not every center is having staffing issues. It hasn’t been a problem for Jack and Jill House in Hazel Dell, but it has still struggled through the pandemic.

“We’re very, very low,” said Tina Andrews, director of the center, adding that Jack and Jill has 15 students enrolled but is licensed for 48. “We have been having problems ever since the pandemic started.”

Parents have reported having to pull their children from the day care center because they are no longer working or are working from home. Some parents say they’ve lost their jobs and haven’t been able to bring their kids back yet, and a couple of parents have said they had to pull their kids from the school because they couldn’t afford it.

That’s the case for Rosalie Johnson, the owner of Jack and Jill House, who said her day care is one of the cheapest in Vancouver, charging just $800 a month for full-time care.


The average price for full-time child care in Clark County is $917, compared to $939 statewide. That’s 16 percent of the county’s average household income for a family with a child under 6, according to a report from ChildCare Aware of America.

“Affordability is a huge, enormous issue. There are people paying more for child care than they make in a wage, so obviously that is not a sustainable model,” said Julia Maglione, director of communications for Workforce Southwest Washington. The organization released a study at the end of 2020, examining the effects the child care industry has had on local businesses.

Accessibility is also an issue for employees.

“We were short on child care before the pandemic hit,” said Maglione. “Now you can’t even find child care if you wanted it, let alone at an affordable price.”

Clark County has a number of “child care deserts,” areas with a low number of facilities as compared to the surrounding population, according to the American Center for Progress. There are 86 licensed child care centers, 87 licensed family child care homes and 28 licensed school-age programs in the county, according to the state department of children, youth and families. Meanwhile, the county’s population was more than half a million in 2020.


Since schools have opened, it’s alleviated some of the time conflicts for parents who need to stay home to take care of the children instead of work, but issues still arise when schools close down due to a COVID outbreak.

In those situations, “parents don’t necessarily have a lot of warning, and so now your employees have to be at home again,” Maglione said. “Companies now are seeing very dramatic impacts that the lack of child care is having.”

For instance, maybe an employee can find child care, but they don’t make enough to pay their bills, their child care costs and still meet their other financial needs.

“You have employees, who it’s cheaper for them to quit their jobs and stay home than it is to pay for child care,” she said.

A Workforce Southwest Washington study from December of last year looked at how child care issues impacted businesses in Cowlitz County. The survey found 18.4 percent of the more than 4,400 employees surveyed had had challenges with child care in the 24 months leading up to the survey.

“The story is pretty much the same in Clark County — lack of available child care, lack of affordable child care.”

The organization is talking with businesses in Southwest Washington and trying to get more companies on board with being part of a solution.

“It’s not just one group that can solve this. It’s such a large issue. It impacts everyone — you’re a business, you’re a worker — that impacts our economy and our community. This is something we all need to come together and address.”

Government help

There are state and federal programs aiming to alleviate the economic issues surrounding child care.

In October, the state opened a new program, born out of the Fair Start for Kids Act passed in May, that expanded eligibility for child care subsidies to families earning up to 60 percent of the Washington average income. It also lowered co-payments for families who receive state child care assistance to no more than 7 percent of a family’s monthly income.

“Call volume went up in September and October as these changes became known,” said Allison Krutsinger, director of government affairs and community engagement at the state Department of Children, Youth and Families. “Many families who called and were learning about their co-pay change — who may previously have been eligible but couldn’t afford it, so opted not to use it — were telling us things like, ‘I can pay rent and keep my kid in child care now.’ ‘I can keep my lights on and know my kid is safe during the day.’ ”

Meanwhile, the federal Build Back Better legislation would make more funds available to states that meet certain requirements. Those include mandating increased pay for child care workers, universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, subsidies for day cares that provide free care for low-income families and limit what most families pay to 7 percent of monthly income. However, the bill doesn’t offer guidance to states on how to implement these policies. The spending bill has passed the House of Representatives but has not yet been voted on in the Senate.


School News

Battle Ground Public Schools seeks volunteers for sexual health education committee

Battle Ground Public Schools is assembling a committee of parents, teachers and community members to provide input on proposed curricula on comprehensive sexual health education in grades 5-12.

In recent months, the middle school sexual health community advisory group has worked to review curricula in grades 5-8 until the board of directors formally requested the district at a meeting on Nov. 22 to move forward on an implementation plan.

The final curricula will be implemented in schools in fall of 2022.

The district will select six parent/community members, six teachers and one building administrator to serve on the committee. Applicants will go through a two-step selection process that includes filling out a form by Dec. 12 and participating in a follow-up interview.

Committee members are expected to be chosen by the end of December. The committee will then meet weekly in person on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. from Jan. 11 to March 29. Meetings will maintain the current COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

More information on the review and implementation of the curricula can be found on the district’s comprehensive sex education adoption plan.

School News

Vancouver Public Schools COVID test sites to open later than planned

Plans to launch COVID-19 testing sites next week at a handful of locations in Vancouver Public Schools have been put on hold, according to a Wednesday press release from the school district.

In a Tuesday press release, Embry Health announced the health care provider would open sites at five schools in the coming weeks. It also said it hoped to expand the operation to 22 schools across the district by Jan. 3.

However, Vancouver Public Schools has since said it is exploring partnerships to expand its current COVID-19 testing capability and has not yet finalized a partnership with Embry Health or any other providers. The district said the information from Embry Health was released prematurely.

Vancouver Public Schools spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said Wednesday that the district will announce the opening date for such testing sites in the coming days or weeks when a formal deal with a provider is reached.

In the meantime, Vancouver Public Schools will continue offering free testing for current students and staff members at the Jim Parsley Center, 4040 Plomondon St., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.




School News

Giving Tuesday campaign spurs bump in charitable donations across Clark County

Many nonprofits across Clark County saw increased donations during the nationwide Giving Tuesday campaign, an event that promotes charitable giving on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Conceived as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday was organized by a team at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact in New York City in 2012. Now, it is recognized in more than 150 countries.

In years past, Giving Tuesday hasn’t been a widely popular campaign in Southwest Washington, likely because the region has its own unofficial giving holiday, Give More 24!, which is held in September. This year, Give More 24! raised $3.3 million in donations for local nonprofits, setting a record for the event.

But Giving Tuesday is becoming more popular locally, especially as the pandemic continues to strain local nonprofits. Plus, many nonprofits are taking a unique approach to the event to encourage donations.

Share’s Backpack Program

Homeless service provider Share, for example, focused on raising funds for its Backpack Program, which provides over 525,000 pounds of food to schools and those in need.

The organization has found that focusing on a particular need during Giving Tuesday tends to drive up engagement, said Share spokesperson Jessica Lightheart.

“Success on Giving Tuesday has fluctuated over the years,” Lightheart said. “At Share, we have found that asking for funds to purchase a specific item is usually most successful. For example, one year the oven down at Share House — from which the Hot Meals program operates — broke down. We needed $10,000 to purchase a new one, and were able to raise those funds.”

For Giving Tuesday this year, Share raised $28,683 for the Backpack Program, bringing the organization just short of an anonymous $30,000 match.

“Checks have been coming in over the past week, and we anticipate more, so we have our fingers crossed that we will push over that goal,” Lightheart said.

Amid the strain caused by the pandemic, the funds were greatly appreciated.

“Typically, (Share’s Backpack Program) is not short on funding,” Lightheart said. “However, the rising food costs and delays in the food-delivery supply chain that continue to impact the household budgets of thousands in our community has affected this program, too. Adding on to those challenges, local funding sources were also lost this year.

“The Clark County community is incredibly generous and is quick to step up financially when nonprofits, including Share, are in need,” Lightheart continued. “It’s just part of what makes this such a special place to live and work.”

Other nonprofits

Columbia Land Trust, a Vancouver-based nonprofit dedicated to land conservation in the Northwest, also raised significant funds Tuesday.

The Dudley Foundation matched every gift of $25,000 and under donated to the organization Tuesday, bringing total donations to $55,567.

“This was a record-breaking Giving Tuesday for Columbia Land Trust, which is great news because our conservation work is more important than ever,” said Columbia Land Trust Executive Director Glenn Lamb. “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who donated, and the funds raised will be crucial in supporting our efforts to protect the nature of the Northwest, from the Pacific Ocean to the east Cascades.”

Meals on Wheels People also raised significant funds this Giving Tuesday. The organization set a fundraising goal of $60,000 and ended up raising $85,000.

In Clark County specifically, the organization raised $25,000 from 108 donations, according to Meals on Wheels People spokesperson Ashley Cone.

“We are so thankful for the generosity we receive from our supporters in Clark County,” said Tony Stasser, chief development officer at Meals on Wheels People. “The donations we received on Giving Tuesday, and throughout the year, help us provide nutritious meals and human connections to older adults in the community.”

While Giving Tuesday is over, many nonprofits are still seeking donations for the holidays.

Other organizations that sought donations on Giving Tuesday include iUrban Teen, Cougar Food Pantry at WSU Vancouver, Northwest Association for Blind Athletes, Support for Early Learning and Families, Washington Trails Association, and Family Promise of Clark County.


School News

Clark County school districts dip into federal funds to offset pandemic costs

Clark County’s three largest school districts received the third batch of federal relief money to alleviate financial and staffing pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief, known as ARP ESSER, Fund was allocated to school districts across Washington on Nov. 24.

The funds, which were authorized by the federal American Rescue Plan Act, aim to support safe building reopenings, incorporation of remote learning and any additional operations that may have been hindered or stopped by the pandemic.

In Southwest Washington, Evergreen Public Schools and Vancouver Public Schools — the largest districts in the region and the sixth and ninth biggest districts in the state, respectively — have started to claim portions of this latest batch of funding.

The third batch, referred to as ESSER III funds, are available to school districts to reimburse payments for resources such as additional personal protective equipment, cleaning services, technology additions, unemployment benefits and more. Compared with the previous two batches, the third is intentionally the largest, as it is meant to sustain districts through the 2023-2024 school year. These funds can only be claimed for things that have already been paid for and that are specifically for pandemic-related needs.

For example, Evergreen claimed $1.1 million of the $40.7 million allocated to it as reimbursement for summer school programs. Per the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Evergreen has claimed $15.5 million of the $63.8 million allocated.

The largest portion of the funds Evergreen has claimed thus far has been for employee-related reasons. Those include benefits for employees who were furloughed or laid off, training for new staff, and pay for extra staffing in COVID-19 isolation rooms and other newly added positions, according to district spokeswoman Gail Spolar.

The second largest category to which ESSER funds have gone in Evergreen has been for technology — both for in the classrooms and take-home equipment.

OSPI records show that Vancouver Public Schools has yet to claim any of the $44,668,584 allocated in the latest round. In total, Vancouver has claimed $15.1 million of the $70 million allocated. Like Evergreen, the district has claimed nearly all of its first batch, which is available until September 2023.

Battle Ground Public Schools also has yet to claim any of its ESSER III funds, which total $12.3 million, according to OSPI. The district has claimed $2.6 million of the $19.3 million allocated to date, according to OSPI.

Districts in Southwest Washington and throughout the state will continue to apply for these reimbursements to recoup losses attributed to the pandemic on a quarterly or monthly basis over the next few years.

School News

As Oregon outfits its schools for seismic safety, many in Washington remain highly vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis

ON THE SURFACE, there’s not much to distinguish Tumwater Middle School from any other modern campus. The two-story building is boxy, with a faux-brick facade in shades of ocher and tan. Blond wood brightens the corridors, and concrete floors are polished to a shine.

The only hint there’s something unique about this structure in the Portland suburb of Beaverton is the steel cross-bracing left exposed along one hallway. The beams, painted blue and filled with concrete, are part of what made Tumwater the most seismically resilient school in the Pacific Northwest when it opened five years ago — outshining even the newest schools in Washington.

Since then, Beaverton has built an additional six schools that are equally robust, all designed to not only ride out a Cascadia megaquake, but also to remain usable after the shaking stops.

That might not sound extraordinary, but it’s more than state and federal building codes require. To meet current standards, new structures need only be designed for what’s called life-safety. That means they won’t collapse and kill people — or, as California earthquake expert Lucy Jones puts it, occupants will be able to “crawl out alive.” What happens next is not the code’s concern. Many of the schools, office towers and apartments that keep communities humming are likely to be damaged beyond repair, with devastating economic and social consequences.

Beaverton was the first school district in Oregon to decide that wasn’t good enough for its students and neighborhoods.

“The odds of the next big earthquake happening during the lifetime of these new buildings seemed scary-high,” recalls Richard Steinbrugge, the former Beaverton facilities administrator who convinced the district it made sense to spend more for sturdier schools. “This is just a smart insurance policy — a one-time premium that basically provides insurance for 80 to 100 years.”

The premium turned out to be surprisingly small, though Steinbrugge didn’t know that back in 2014, when he sat stunned in an Oregon engineering association meeting listening to a presentation about the region’s worst seismic nightmare: a major rupture on the offshore Cascadia Subduction Zone.

The speaker was structural engineer Kent Yu, co-author of an ambitious, 50-year resilience plan developed by Oregon’s seismic safety commission to help the state prepare. Without improvements to its rickety utilities, Portland and other cities could be without water or sewer service for months, he warned. It could take 18 months for schools to reopen, triggering an exodus from the state. Among the plan’s recommendations was for schools to be built or retrofitted to higher standards so damage would be minimal, and students could be back in class within a month.

“That really got my attention,” Steinbrugge says. The Beaverton School District was on the verge of passing a $680 million bond — at that time the biggest in state history — for new schools and upgrades. “I felt like we had a huge opportunity. Even a responsibility.”

He and Yu started talking about what it would take to build stronger schools that could also be used as emergency shelters.

“I told him: ‘This has probably never been done before, but maybe we can do it together,’ “ Yu says.

IT’S NOT HARD to design structures to survive earthquakes relatively unscathed. Critical facilities such as hospitals and fire stations are required to be built for “immediate occupancy,” the higher standard that Beaverton wanted to apply to its new schools. All it takes are bigger footings, more robust shear walls, stronger connections and more steel bracing, Yu explains.

The trickier problem was figuring out how to keep utilities intact so gyms and cafeterias could be transformed into shelters where hundreds of people could take refuge.

At each of its new schools, Beaverton added oversized emergency generators and tanks that hold enough fuel to keep the power on for four days or more. They braced and strengthened HVAC systems and ducts, along with water, sewer and electrical lines in kitchens, bathrooms and large common areas. Plans for underground water tanks were scrapped due to cost, but exterior connectors allow emergency trucks to pump water into the buildings.

The price tag for all the seismic upgrades? One to two percent of total construction costs.

“Everyone was surprised it was so small,” Yu says. “This really is a no-brainer.”

Still, only a handful of other school districts in Oregon have embraced a similar approach.

In the coastal community of Seaside, it took nearly a decade to gain community support for a new middle and high school campus built to the immediate-occupancy standard and situated on high ground safe from tsunamis. The complex, which includes a 2-million-gallon water tank, opened this fall.

“It’s given us peace of mind, not only for our kids and schools, but for our community,” says district superintendent Susan Penrod.

The Portland School District requires major seismic retrofits to meet the higher standards in parts of a building that could be used as shelters. New schools constructed under a $1.2 billion bond approved in 2020 will be designed for immediate occupancy. Oregon also mandates immediate occupancy for common areas at schools retrofitted through its dedicated grant program.

In Washington, which long has lagged behind the rest of the West Coast in school seismic safety and earthquake preparedness, the idea of raising the construction bar for schools has yet to catch on.

“Washington has just been building schools like crazy,” but districts haven’t been willing to pay a little more for stronger structures, says Portland architect Jay Raskin, who co-authored the Oregon Resilience Plan with Yu and advised the Beaverton district. “It’s a missed opportunity.”

PACIFIC BEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL on the Washington coast sits at the opposite end of the resilience spectrum from Beaverton’s schools. Built in 1956 before seismic construction codes, the complex is a scant three blocks from the beach. You can hear the surf from the school grounds, says principal Marlene Perez.

“It’s pretty soothing, but then you think about the danger because of the subduction zone,” she says. “I try not to go there.”

There’s high ground nearby, so the kids have a good chance of escaping a tsunami if the building doesn’t crumble around them. But a new report to the state legislature that evaluated the seismic soundness of 561 school buildings ranks Pacific Beach as one of the worst. All three wings on the small campus pose a “very high” risk to life and safety in a big earthquake. The two-story masonry gym is especially vulnerable.

Pacific Beach isn’t alone. Based on structural integrity and soil type, the report gave one star out of five — the lowest possible rating — to 93% of schools surveyed. That means there’s a high chance the buildings will collapse in multiple spots and kill or injure occupants, says Corina Allen, leader of the School Seismic Safety Project at the Washington Department of Natural Resources, which oversaw the report. Thirty-six of the school buildings also are in tsunami zones.

“Several districts declined to participate because they didn’t want a record of their school having seismic deficiencies, and then they would have to do something about it,” Allen says.

IT’S LARGELY UP TO districts to pay for retrofits and new construction through bond elections — which require a 60% supermajority to pass. Many of the one-star schools are in rural areas with low incomes and property values. In Seattle, nearly all older schools have been retrofitted thanks to generous voters and the state’s biggest property tax base.

“It should not be the case that some kids are in schools that are really, really unsafe, and only wealthy communities get safe schools,” says Andrew Kelly, superintendent of the North Beach School District, which includes Pacific Beach Elementary.

The Hoquiam School District has only five schools, but a dozen of its buildings are on DNR’s “very high” or “high” priority lists for seismic upgrades. The city’s high school is more than 50 years old and sits on unstable soil at the edge of Grays Harbor.

Residents of the former timber industry hub consistently support modest levies and bonds, says superintendent Mike Villarreal. One elementary school is currently getting upgrades thanks to a $6.8 million bond passed in 2018. But the estimated cost to retrofit or replace the high school ranges from $50 million to $120 million.

“Our community can’t handle that,” Villarreal says. “That’s way too much.”

With more than 10,000 students, Marysville might seem better situated in the economically robust Puget Sound area. But it also has a tough time getting big construction bonds passed, says facilities manager Gregg Kuehn.

The state report gives single-star ratings to 21 of the district’s school buildings, and singles out four as “highest priority.”

Even the Renton School District, which has a long history of voter-approved construction bonds, has four buildings on the “highest priority” list. A major difference between the Seattle suburb and poorer parts of the state is that Renton was able to hire engineers to do detailed analyses of the risky buildings and map out a plan for the fixes with a reasonable expectation the money will come.

WITHOUT STATE SUPPORT for less-affluent districts, Washington’s school seismic safety gap will only widen. That’s a problem the rest of the West Coast began tackling years ago. California mandated strict seismic standards for schools beginning in 1933 and invested heavily in retrofitting or replacing unsound buildings.

British Columbia has spent billions for retrofits, including more than $800 million in the past five years. Oregon’s Seismic Rehabilitation Grant Program, funded through state bond sales, was approved by voters in 2005. The program has awarded nearly $460 million — with an additional $160 million in the pipeline — for hundreds of projects.

Washington’s grant program has completed retrofits at a single school: Edison Elementary in Centralia.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction launched the effort in 2020 and asked the legislature for $75 million through the end of the current budget cycle. They got $53 million.

Among more than a dozen schools prioritized for funding is Pacific Beach Elementary, where the gym will be strengthened. But the cost of the retrofit has tripled because engineers discovered the soil is likely to liquefy during an earthquake. So OSPI will be going back to the legislature early next year, seeking $8.6 million in supplemental funding.

OSPI hopes lawmakers will provide $25 million a year, says Randy Newman, director of school facilities. “This is going to be a long-term program until we reach all the schools that need it,” he says.

With so many schools and so little money, retrofits will have to meet only a basic, life-safety standard. The new report recommends Washington consider raising construction standards for new schools, but that’s likely to be a lengthy process. In Oregon, a proposal to strengthen the building code for schools failed, though proponents plan to introduce it again.

Jones, the seismologist Californians call “the earthquake lady,” is leading a push for stronger codes for most buildings across her home state to speed recovery. “We need homes and workplaces that survive us after earthquakes,” she wrote in a recent column urging the legislature to support a pending bill.

WASHINGTON’S LACKLUSTER PERFORMANCE reflects the lack of public or political support. The last Cascadia earthquake struck in 1700, and estimates of the average recurrence range from 250 to 500 years. In the face of that uncertainly, it’s easy for politicians to gamble it won’t happen on their watch.

That’s infuriating to Jim Buck, a former state legislator who lives in the tiny town of Joyce on the Olympic Peninsula. “You can’t put a kid in a boat without a life jacket, or in a car without a car seat,” he says. “Why in the world would you be required by law to send them to a school that could kill them?”

Buck and his wife, Donna, might be the state’s leading citizen champions for earthquake preparedness. Recognizing they live in a place that will be isolated after a seismic disaster, the couple has been working with neighbors to plan and stockpile emergency caches of food and gear. When the schools report was quietly released in June, Buck was shocked it wasn’t getting much attention.

He waded through the report and its unwieldy appendices, some so big he couldn’t open them on his computer. Much of the language seemed geared to engineers instead of parents.

“I can tell you right now,” he says, “there wasn’t a single legislator who had read it or understood what it said.”

He and Donna spent five weeks distilling the results into news releases and fact sheets. They transferred reams of data into a searchable spreadsheet and wrote letters to individual principals and school boards. Then they emailed or snail-mailed the packages to more than 4,000 people across the state, from lawmakers to local fire chiefs.

The response has been mostly positive, Buck says. One person objected to the photo Buck included. It’s a graphic image of children buried in rubble in Sichuan, China, where hundreds of schools collapsed in a 2008 earthquake and killed more than 5,000 students.

Buck agrees it’s hard to look at.

“You just have tears in your eyes.”

But the report’s technical language and cost-benefit tone didn’t sit well with him. It was important, he felt, to add what seemed to be missing: a reminder of what’s at stake.

School News

Enrollment drop could cost Washington schools $500M in state funding

SEATTLE (AP) — New state data shows school systems in Washington still have not recovered their enrollment losses from pandemic.

The Seattle Times reports that between October 2019 and October 2020, 39,000 fewer students enrolled in public school, about a 3.5% drop. The numbers weren’t distributed evenly across grades — the most pronounced losses were among younger students; the number of kindergarten students plummeted by 14%. By this fall, the state’s enrollment had only grown by a thousand students.

The drop in enrollment is bad news for public schools financially. Collectively, school districts will lose about $500 million in state funding in the next budget, according to state Superintendent Chris Reykdal.

He has already signaled that he will ask state lawmakers to hold funds steady for the districts, which receive dollars based on the size of their rosters.

Districts have been tallying up the damage. Seattle is down 3,400 students since 2019. This year, the district estimates it will operate with $28 million less in funding, according to a recent Seattle School Board presentation. There is “potential” for some of those students to return during the second semester of the year now that the vaccine is available for children ages 5 through 11, the presentation said.

For the short term, money from the pandemic federal stimulus packages aimed at schools should exceed the money lost by enrollment declines in most school districts, according to an analysis from Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab.

At the same time, the state’s home-schooled population has ballooned, nearly doubling in size during the first full school year of the pandemic, 2020-21.

Home-schooled students grew from 21,000 to 40,000 students between 2019 and 2020.

There isn’t a count yet available for home-schooled kids this school year, but Jen Garrison Stuber, advocacy chair for the Washington Homeschool Organization, says she expects the number to hold steady.

School News

Vancouver students learn about Native American cultures during drum-circle assembly

Slowly — and then louder and louder — the rumbling beat of animal skin drums began to reverberate through the halls of Lincoln Elementary School on Tuesday.

Pastor Joseph Scheeler, a leader at All Saints Episcopal Church and the Traveling Day Society, led a group of Native drummers in song in the school’s music room. The performance was broadcast via Zoom to students in classrooms throughout Lincoln and was followed up by a virtually led storytelling session from Ed Edmo, a Shoshone-Bannock poet who shared stories about Native groups in the Columbia River basin.

The Traveling Day Society is an intertribal group that plays flutes and drums at schools, hospitals and other community venues to spread knowledge of generations-old tribal tales through song. Performers at Tuesday’s event represented the Cherokee, Anishinaabe, Shawnee and many other tribes.

For weeks, students at Lincoln and a handful of other schools in Vancouver Public Schools have been learning about the cultural history of many Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, teachers felt placing an emphasis on Indigenous history and values was even more necessary.

In past years, Lincoln’s music and visual art teacher Erik Smith has felt the teaching of history around Thanksgiving has been incomplete.

“As a teacher, I’ve been working for years on teaching this holiday, but never as authentically as I’ve wanted to,” Smith said. “This year, all the stars aligned when (Scheeler) wanted to donate some authentic drums.”

Smith used the drums, made of dried elk or deer skin and wood, in his music classes to introduce the role music plays in Indigenous culture and how it connects people to the Earth. The name of the monthlong unit is called Indigenous Cultural Music.

Scheeler said it’s a special honor for these songs to be taught to young students.

“These songs and these drums are so old, they’re passed orally from drum to drum,” Scheeler said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to teach about these things, like what it means to have respect for the drum and what it means. Because First Nations People believe it’s alive.”

Grants for arts

Wendy Thompson, a dance and movement instructor at neighboring Lake Shore Elementary School, helped to write a grant that is funding programs at Lincoln and other elementary schools in the district. She and a group of teachers organized similar assemblies at each of the participating schools in the days preceding the holiday.

“I started teaching in Vancouver Public Schools in 1992,” Thompson said. “When I first came, the education on Native Americans was pretty stereotypical, even frightening. Textbooks speak on the first Thanksgiving, but that’s not necessarily the story.”

“The whole grant is about making cultural connections.”

The grant was for $25,000 from ArtsWA, which funds community arts projects in Washington with a focus on those that promote cultural equity and diversity.

An introduction to Native culture and history for young children through music opens the door for the appreciation of Indigenous culture as it becomes a more complex topic for older students. It also serves as a more balanced and accurate way for students to learn about Thanksgiving, teachers say, compared with previous generations. When these students grow up, they’ll do so with a greater awareness for the connections they share with a community that had been previously overshadowed in American education.

Music also proves to be an often more engaging method than in-class learning, teachers said, especially since COVID-19 has forced educators to get more creative with how they engage young students.

“Many students don’t relate to traditional ways of learning. If they aren’t understanding it through lecture or through reading, if they can experience that through their bodies in a physical way through a dance or a game, they’re going to remember it better,” Thompson said.

“Arts now more than ever are essential for self-expression, for relaying some key concepts, oftentimes kids make connections in the arts that they couldn’t make in the classroom.”

Smith has loved the level of engagement he’s seen from students in this unit this year, and recalls a specific moment when one student explained just how the drumming made him feel.

“A third-grader said when he closed his eyes, he felt a spiritual connection to the beat of the Earth. I’m sitting here saying, ‘This is more than I could ever imagine!’ ” Smith said. “That’s exactly what we’re learning here.”

Scheeler said he’s looking forward to continuing these assemblies in the future and hopes that these messages shared in their performance and the curriculum as a whole can help bridge the gap between previously distanced cultures.

“No matter what the history is, I think the meaning we can take from it is: yes, it’s good for people from different cultures to be able to sit down together, but it’s only with that interaction that understanding comes,” Scheeler said. “If we keep sitting in our own circles, we can never really understand one another.

School News

Volunteers prepare Thanksgiving meals for hospice families in Clark, Cowlitz counties

On Monday morning, firefighters, students and volunteers bustled about in the Clark College cafeteria and kitchen. The smell of home cooking and fresh coffee hung in the air.

Colleen Storey looked at the busy workers in white chef coats darting from one end of the kitchen to the other, carrying trays loaded with turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy.

“I can’t believe I haven’t cried yet,” she said. “It just touches my heart.”

The meals being prepared are for 17 PeaceHealth hospice families. Storey is the outreach supervisor for PeaceHealth Hospice and Hope Bereavement Services.

Members of the Local 452 branch of the International Association of Fire Fighters teamed with chef Earl Frederick, a Clark College cuisine instructor, and his students to prepare the Thanksgiving meals that will be boxed up today and delivered by firefighters to the families for Thanksgiving Day.

It’s a Local 452 holiday tradition that began in 2012, according to Fire Capt. Tom Schell.

He explained that he once had a good friend — a firefighter — who stayed at PeaceHealth Hospice before passing away. Schell saw firsthand how much time hospice families devote to their dying loved ones, and how little time they have for things like cooking, let alone a Thanksgiving dinner.

The experience inspired him to devote some volunteer resources to PeaceHealth Hospice.

Those resources were put into action Monday morning: Firefighters, students and volunteers prepared a special meal to help lighten the load on hospice families during the holidays.

Over the years, various organizations have donated food, volunteers and other resources, and the number of families served has steadily grown. This year was the biggest yet.

“Times are hard right now,” Schell said. “It’s just about just trying to connect a resource with people who can use something.”

Firefighters, both on and off duty, volunteer to deliver the meals to the families, and, according to Schell, many are willing to go great distances to deliver the meals to the families’ homes throughout Clark and Cowlitz counties.

One year, volunteers delivered a meal to a family of 12. Two days after Thanksgiving, the matriarch of the family passed away.

“This way, they didn’t have to waste all their time in the kitchen cooking,” Storey said. “Instead, they got to spend quality time together.”

Another year, a family lost their loved one a few days before Thanksgiving, and volunteers still delivered a meal. It helped comfort the family after its loss.

Frederick teamed with the firefighters for the first time last year. According to Storey, Frederick “saved the day” by volunteering his time and resources amid the tumult of 2020.

“I’m a big community guy,” Frederick said. “I always like to give back and make sure that people get some nourishing food for this time.”

Frederick has been cooking professionally for 25 years, and he’s been at Clark College for five years.

He looked around the cafeteria as volunteers and students settled down for a quick lunch.

“Food is just a vehicle we use to build community,” he said. “I grew up in the church, so giving back has always been something that’s been a part of me. And that’s what this program is all about: We’re here for the community.”

Storey wiped her eyes.

“I knew I shouldn’t have worn makeup today,” she said.