On the Beat: PHS bucking national trend with dropout rates

This past spring, the National Dropout Prevention Center issued a report that included dire predictions in connection with the ongoing pandemic.

“As schools return to what at best may be a ‘new normal,’ they will face doubled and tripled numbers of at-risk students across all grade levels. These students will present a new set of academic, behavioral and trauma-impacted educational challenges,” Dr. Sandy Addis, chairman of the National Dropout Prevention Center said in the report. “To prevent drastic and multiyear declines of graduation rates, districts must find ways to recover, remediate, accommodate and somehow help these students to graduate.”

The Philomath School District’s vision statement: “Graduate every student and transition each into a job, training or college.”

So, how has the pandemic threatened Philomath’s students in their pursuit of a high school diploma? Is it a serious concern among administrators?

PHS Principal Mike Bussard said the concern was there during the 2020-21 academic year but heading into this fall, the fears have dissipated. He credits staff members for doing an amazing job to keep students engaged.

“Our number of seniors coming into this year that are not on track to graduate is very low and very manageable,” Bussard said earlier this month. “The dedication of Dan Johnson and our summer school program — we actually had two sessions — helped with students’ credit recovery.”

Johnson, principal at Philomath Academy, said worrying about dropouts is always a concern.

“The academy and the high school have a great relationship by working together to do everything we can to provide as many supports as we can for students so that dropping out isn’t an option,” Johnson said, then added with a chuckle, “We make it too uncomfortable for them to drop out, it’s just easier to finish.”

Around 30 high school students participated in credit recovery this summer, Johnson said.

This academic year, the high school waived participation fees in extracurricular activities. Bussard hopes that’s the sort of thing that serves as an incentive for students on the bubble.

“We need to provide once again those anchors for our students to want to come to class, to want to be at school and whether that’s a club, an activity, student body involvement, athletics or performing arts — if those are back in play and robust, I really believe those are going to be the anchors that are going to bring our students back to school and be happy to be back in school,” Bussard said.

A return to normalization around Career Technical Education programs are also in play, Bussard added.

“Those dropout rates, we’re not seeing that as a major issue here at Philomath High School,” Bussard said. “We’re just hoping and praying that things don’t go crazy as far as things that are out of our control in terms of the pandemic.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Sunburned trees

Nature World News, a new site that reports on the scientific world, recently published an article about how plants and trees need sunlight in order to thrive and grow. However, just like humans, they can get sunburned.

“Sunburn in trees, known as ‘sun scald,’ has become prevalent over the coastal mountain range in Oregon as heatwaves in the region continue to worsen,” Miguel Brown reported. “This results in withered brown spots on leaves, and red and burnt orange needles on the tops of Doug firs and ponderosa pines along Benton County.”

The trees here, foresters and ecology experts say, are “less acclimated” to hot weather.

“The average temperature over there is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than it is in Philomath,” Steve Hiebert, longtime Lincoln County forester, is quoted as saying in the article. “Those trees just weren’t accustomed to going up to 108, but that was the temp that day… It happened so quick and fast.”

Under construction

Two industrial developments in Philomath are getting work done with the Northernwood project on North 19th Street across from the Alyrica campus and the Scott Lepman project off Main Street in an area across from Timber Supply Co.

The Northernwood plans include three office pods and a warehouse to begin with and could encompass as many as 11 buildings in later phases. The project will reportedly bring in significant property taxes to the city and proposes to create 80-plus new full-time jobs.

This early stage of the Lepman project includes self-storage buildings and industrial flex space that would be leased to small industrial businesses and start-ups. Work on the new RV park is not underway just yet.

Dax crowdfunding

Last week, Daxbot Inc., announced the launch of its equity crowdfunding raise. Of course, many in Philomath are familiar with the food delivery robots making their way around the community.

The goal of the funding round is to increase the number of robots and be able to have delivery robots in 10 key cities across the United States in 2022.

“Dax seems to become a celebrity wherever he goes,” CEO Jason Richards said in a press release. “We wanted to give people that believe in our vision, that are fans of Dax to be able to invest and own a piece of that vision.”

Daxbot is using StartEngine for its raise.

Lupine’s hawthorn

Earlier this year, I accompanied city councilors and city officials on a tour of Lupine Meadows, which is managed by Greenbelt Land Trust. Greenbelt staff and volunteers plan to be at Lupine Meadows on the morning of Oct. 9.

“The volunteers will be removing invasive hawthorn and other brushy species from the Fender’s blue butterfly habitat that we all toured around this spring,” Greenbelt Outreach Manager Matt Benotsch told me. “This is important hand work in areas that the mowers can’t get to because of slope or rocks, so it’s perfect for volunteers.”

Benotsch said the volunteer spots are filled up with a waitlist.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at [email protected]).

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