Schools Update: Blended Classes

Vernonia School District students will see some new and returning faces in the classroom this fall, as summer hiring welcomes three teachers into the district. Laura Blacker, a recent school volunteer and student teacher, will teach fourth grade, filling in for Robyn Richmond who is taking a year’s leave of absence. Margie Fry, a fifth year teacher returning to Oregon from North Dakota, will be joining the kindergarten through second grade teaching team and Steve Whiteman will rejoin the high school staff teaching physics and an upper level math course.

The addition of Mr. Whiteman will add a much needed section of math for high school students, while the hiring of Ms. Fry will enable our primary students in grades K-2 to have much smaller class sizes with five teachers rather than four. Class sizes in K-2 classrooms are presently projected at 23 or 24 students, whereas they would have been 29-30 without this new position.

The decision to move to a K-2 blended model was made after much deliberation by the entire teaching team, who has already spent several days of their summer developing plans to address the unique needs of this blend.

While smaller class sizes for these critical primary years were a very strong consideration, they were by no means the sole reason for this decision. Please find bulleted below several other reasons and considerations that went into this choice.

• Other grade configurations (with either 4 or 5 teachers) left large disparities in class sizes, and/or had unacceptable class sizes.

• These blends allow for more effective differentiation of instruction to meet individual student learning needs.

• VES teachers already utilize an effective K-2 reading program, and will expand the concepts of effective grouping, and meeting individual student needs, to math, science and social studies.

• We have an extremely successful model for effective blended classrooms in our own Mist Grade School’s Kindergarten-5th grade program.

• Blending primary grades will allow us to maintain an effective full-day kindergarten program, prior to state funding availability in 2015-16.

• A long-term, consistent grade level configuration will be possible. In the past five years we have had K/1, 1/2, 2/3 and 4/5 blends. By creating K-2 blends we will eliminate this reactionary practice and allow for a consistent primary program, with equitable class sizes.

• All five K-2 teachers will be working closely together to ensure consistency of curriculum and that each student is working at their optimum level of productivity.


A parent information night will be held early in the school year to provide parents with an opportunity to ask further questions. See your students’ backpacks during the first week of school for further information. Prior to that,  questions can be submitted to Aaron Miller at the VSD Office, 503-429-5891 or via email.