Tag Archives: Vernonia Schools

Vernonia School to Celebrate Green Certifications

The Vernonia School District will celebrate receiving LEED Platinum and Three Green Globes certifications at a ceremony on Saturday, May 9 at 10:30 AM.

The Vernonia School is the first K-12 school building in the United States to receive the coveted LEED Platinum certification.

The LEED green building rating system, developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council  is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability in the United States and in a number of other countries around the world.  It is designed to promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupant health and well-being.

The LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction – Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum  in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

Green Globes is nationally recognized green rating assessment and certification program.

Local elected officials and other dignitaries will be in attendance.

Schools Update: Happy Holidays!

Winter vacation is a time for students to be with family, take a break from school and just be kids. While it is a time to rejuvenate, parents can continue to keep their students thinking. Everyday life, and holiday travels, are full of opportunities for students of all ages to use and maintain their essential academic skills. Here are a few ideas to try with your kids.

Cook a meal together. Cooking involves technical reading skills, organization and the use of measurement and fractions.  It is also a great time for children to learn responsibility while spending quality time with their family. Real world activities such as these help tie together academic learning with practical use.

Take a trip. While driving to grandma’s house, or anywhere else, play a game that uses the words and numbers on cars and signs. Use mileage signs to work on math skills. How far have you traveled? What is the distance between towns? How long will it take to get there at your current rate of speed? Which direction are you headed? Go old school and use a map. Get there and have fun doing it.

Watch the weather. Will it snow? Will it affect our travel? What kind of clothes should we take based on the weather? What will be the best weather days for our vacation plans?

Read. Curl up with a good book. Read a favorite magazine. Go to the library. Read and write letters and thank you letters. Help your child develop an interest they want to learn about and find reading materials to support their curiosity. Read, read, read! Read More

Schools Update: Making Adjustments for Overcrowded Classrooms

Increased enrollment is a great thing for the vitality and diversity of our schools, as well as for the long-term, financial health of our community and school district. Enrollment is up this year, and we expect that trend to continue.

While this is very positive for our schools and community, it does come with some complications in terms of effectively meeting the needs of those extra students while still being funded based on lower enrollment numbers from the past. Fortunately, we have been able to work through these “growing pains” with some additional hiring since the beginning of this school year.

In addition to an increase in our primary grade enrollment, we have also seen larger class sizes in third, fourth and sixth grades. The following staffing increases have already been added to help alleviate larger class sizes:

•   One full-time Kindergarten-2nd Grade


•   One full-time K-12 Behavior Specialist

•  One extra period of math instruction

at the Middle School

•  Three middle school/high school

teachers increased their schedule by

one period per day, increasing their hours to full-time Read More

School Enrollment and Funding

Deconstructing the myths and understanding 

the realities of state funding for Vernonia Schools

When Vernonia School Superintendent Aaron Miller recently announced that enrollment at District 47J was up at the start of the 2014-15 school year, it sounded like good news.  And, for the most part, it is. 

“This is very good news,” stated Vernonia School District Superintendent Aaron Miller, when asked about the recent, and apparently unexpected surge, in registered students in Kindergarten through grade 12 at the new Vernonia Schools. “This is a huge step in the right direction.  It’s very exciting for our district to see new students come through the front door.”

The reason this is such good news is because School Districts in Oregon receive funding from the state, through the State School Fund (SSF) grant program, based on enrollment.

Enrollment in Vernonia at the start of this school year was counted at 560 students, up from 532 at the end of the 2013-14 school year.  The actual number is 589, but kindergarten students only count as a half student each, as far as the state is concerned.  So, for funding purposes, that’s an increase of twenty-eight students, which equates to a more than 5% increase.

That may not sound like much.  But in a school district which has experienced declining enrollment since the flood of 2007, including the last two years following the opening of the newly constructed schools campus, this is extremely encouraging.

“This is the first time we’ve moved forward since the flood,” says Miller, who took over as Superintendent this summer.  “In my mind that’s a very positive thing for the district and it’s a very positive thing for the community.”   Read More

Voices From the Crowd: My Thoughts on Vernonia Schools

  I’ve had a year to reflect on the choice we made to uproot our family after seventeen years and move to Vernonia and away from everything we know and everyone we love, including our schools and familiar teachers in the Hillsboro and Beaverton School Districts. 

When recently asked what our thoughts were on our new school situation, my first initial idea was, “I thought I was moving to a nightmare but possibly ended up finding a little bit of heaven.”

We moved from extremely overcrowded schools. My kids succeeded much more in the class rooms in the grade school when they had a good student/teacher relationship. In other words, the teachers knew the kids. In Washington County, once my children hit middle school and high school, it became visible that students became numbers. Classes were overflowing and with these high numbers came a disconnect between student and teacher. With higher numbers, individual needs were next to impossible to meet. This brought the question, “Is the time spent at school truly worth the 6 ½ hours that my children are there? Is it even worth the teacher’s time?” Even the sports programs were overcrowded. Extremely talented players were not able to play because there were simply too many students crammed up into the schools. Deserving players missed the opportunity for experience and scholarships due to the fact of the overcrowded issue. Some of my family described it as “suffocating.”

As a parent, I felt I couldn’t breathe. I was subsequently consumed at all times; consumed with finding other options for my children’s education; consumed with trying to find tutors; consumed with searching for other opportune moments in sports; consumed with over-volunteering to try to help out; consumed with politics to try to fix the budget problems and help avoid cutting programs; consumed with keeping up with my own budget because all the money was going somewhere else to make up the difference missed in school and sports, the very system that I was pouring taxes into already. It was, in fact, suffocating and frustrating.  Read More

Witt and Johnson Win Approval Of Grant For Vernonia School Fundraising Campaign

Representative Brad Witt and Senator Betsy Johnson have teamed up  to deliver $212,500 for the Vernonia School District to support the final fundraising efforts for the relocation and construction of the Vernonia Schools.

Witt (D-Clatskanie) and Johnson (D-Scappoose) worked with House and Senate leadership to win approval of the grant in a unanimous vote of the 20-member Legislative Emergency Board.  Funding for the grant will come from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s Local Disaster Assistance Loan and Grant Account.

“This grant is an investment in Vernonia’s future,” Witt said. “It will allow this remarkable community to move ahead with the amazing fund-raising effort that literally began before the flood waters in Vernonia receded seven years ago.”

Serious flooding in December 2007 destroyed the Vernonia’s schools. A replacement K-12 school facility, built on higher ground, opened in 2012.  The $40 million school project was funded by private donations, local, state and federal funds. A small amount remains to be raised. With the recent help from the Legislature and continuing private philanthropy, the goal of “closing the books” is within sight. Read More

Vernonia Schools Awarded Green Globes Certification

The Green Building Initiative has awarded the Vernonia Schools building the Green Globes Certification for sustainable building achievements and environmental and energy efficiency.

Vernonia Superintendent Aaron Miller announced the award at the September 11, 2014 School Board meeting.  Miller told the Board that the School was awarded three out of a possible four Green Globes.

Green Globes provides independent sustainability assessments for commercial, institutional and some residential facilities.  Miller told the Board Green Globes is often used by the timber industry to judge sustainability practices in construction.

Green Globes is an alternative to the LEED building rating system.  The Vernonia Schools is still awaiting a final determination on their Platinum rating from LEED.

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. Read More

School Bus Routes Announced for Fall

This is a summary of all main bus routes; these are estimated times. There will be a 5 minute window of time allowed for pickups on routes and all route times are subject to change due to additional stops and unforeseen traffic issues.

Special needs and in town small buses will be determined at the start of school pending notification of riders.

Special needs and out of town small bus will be determined at the start of school pending notification of riders.

Small bus routes change all during the school year as they carry all of our smallest riders and they vary daily.

Timber Route AM

7:09AM Clear Ck Rd.

7:11AM near 55670 Timber Rd.

7:15AM near 57139 Timber Rd.

7:20AM Kirk Rd.

7:21AM Airport Rd.

7:24AM Hwy 47/Timber Rd.

7:26AM Storage Too

7:30AM 1st/Cougar St.

7:32AM Maple St.

7:33AM Columbia Ave/Rose Ave. Read More

Superintendent Explains K-2 Blended Classes to Concerned Parents

Over twenty people attended the August 14, 2014 Vernonia School Board meeting, most of them there to express concerns about the District’s plan to group all kindergarten through second grade students together for instruction this coming school year.

After hearing the concerns of one parent, School Board Chair Bill Langmaid asked Superintendent Aaron Miller to explain the rationale for the decision to place students in five K-2 blended classrooms this school year.

Other parents raised questions and expressed their own personal concerns throughout the rest of the discussion, which lasted for over an hour.  The parents were mostly focused on how individual student’s needs would be addressed in a blended classroom setting.

Miller told the audience that the initial impetus for the move was the breakdown of numbers of registered students in each of the three grade levels.  “As we were looking at those numbers and trying to figure out  how to put them into equitable class sizes between the four teachers, there were no good options,” explained Miller.  Miller said that even by adding a fifth teacher there were still big disparities in class sizes and went on to explain that the solution to blend all three grades came from the teachers themselves along with Miller.  Miller noted that by adding a fifth teacher class sizes have been reduced from thirty-one students to twenty-three students.  “That is a significant difference and played heavily into our decision making,” said Miller.  Read More