Counselor Beth Edgemon, left, and Principal Dan Johnson have been preparing for Philomath Academy's move since last summer. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath Academy students will begin classes in a new location on Jan. 30 with the alternative school’s move to the school district office. Moving day is set for Jan. 27 when students have the day off from classes.

Philomath Academy’s team, which is headed up by Principal Dan Johnson and Counselor Beth Edgemon, started to pack up the school last summer in anticipation of making the move in the following months. But the project saw delays.

“It was making sure we got building permits, so there was a delay in that process, and then materials — to be able to make sure that the renovations could be done and that was the biggest part of it,” Superintendent of Schools Susan Halliday said. “Our facilities folks did most of the work themselves rather than having it contracted to someone else.”

Part of the impact to the timeline related to the facilities staff needing to prioritize outdoor projects this fall when the weather was still nice and other things that came up, such as boiler work needed at the high school, Halliday said.

“The facilities staff, Joey (DiGiovannangelo) and his crew, have put in a lot of work in preparation and our Philomath Academy staff has been the same way,” Halliday said.

The principal’s office, counseling office, registrar’s desk, K-8 classroom space and a small teacher lounge area will be configured into a room at the rear of the building that in the past had served as a computer lab annex.

The conference room where School Board and other meetings are held will be used primarily as a high school classroom during the daytime hours.

“We’ve chosen not to do permanent walls or anything else in here, so we will keep it open in the evenings for events and activities and meetings,” Halliday said. “We want to watch and see how things go before we do anything in a permanent way to be able to craft offices or learning space.”

Halliday said in the meantime, temporary dividers will be used.

“The group seems to be really excited about being able to move and we’re working out the logistics as we speak,” she said.

Halliday said there are currently no plans on how to best utilize the space that will be created in the high school library, although she said the classroom where computers are located could continue to be used as computer space or become a meeting room or study center.

“We’re just kind of playing it by ear to see what will happen over there and what that will turn into,” she said.

Before Philomath Academy moved into the library, the room had been a computer lab.

The school district office faces Applegate Street in a separate building that sits in front of Philomath Elementary.

Trimester-semester discussion

The School Board will likely gather for a work session sometime in February for an informational work session on the high school trimester vs. semester issue. The work session will be a public meeting and the district invites the community to attend.

Halliday said that she and teachers’ union representative Len Cerny were in agreement that the work session would focus only on information and education and time not yet set aside for debates or decisions.

Beyond the board members, other meeting participants have not been finalized but could include among others “representatives from the high school that have been on committees before with (former superintendents) Melissa Goff, Buzz Brazeau, to be able to take a look at what they’ve worked on or talked about semester-trimester,” Halliday said. “There’s been some pretty strong feelings.”

Halliday mentioned that the Eugene 4J School District recently transitioned from semesters to trimesters at their high schools and said it could be possible to get recent information from those sources. Plus, Philomath’s own administrators, including Principal Mark Henderson, will provide information.

Board member Christopher McMorran said the meeting sounds valuable but also wanted to make sure that a future town hall-style event occurs to provide a way for students, staff and the public to offer their views. Halliday said she envisions that type of event being organized out of the initial meeting.

“Get On Board” campaign

The Oregon School Boards Association’s Get on Board campaign, which launched in 2017, features a local flavor this year with McMorran among those asked to participate on a panel for a Jan. 25 webinar.

As a School Board member who is younger than what is typically seen, McMorran will offer his perspectives in areas such as what decisions he made along the journey to wanting to serve as a board member, common misperceptions and other issues.

The webinar’s primary focus will be on creating a diverse candidate field. Laurie Danzuka of the Jefferson County School Board and Maria Hinojos Pressey of the Salem-Keizer School Board will also serve as panelists.

The Philomath School Board will have two seats on the ballot in the May election — those currently held by McMorran and Karen Skinkis. The filing period will run from Feb. 4 to March 16.

In other news out of the Jan. 19 meeting:

• The board approved a consent agenda without discussion that included two significant retirements in Philomath Academy Principal Dan Johnson and Philomath Elementary School Principal Bryan Traylor. Personnel adjustments listed in the consent agenda also included the resignation of Darcy Brons, Philomath Middle School life skills teacher.

• Halliday read a proclamation in support of School Board Recognition Month and thanked those sitting at the table for their service.

• In her superintendent’s report to the board, Halliday said that after “holding on by a thread” in terms of staff and student illnesses in December, things looked much better after the holiday break with attendance. She also provided details on work related to the district’s student success goals as part of the Oregon Department of Education’s merging of six programs in a single guidance plan.

• Business Manager Jennifer Griffith said the school district’s audit was completed and sent in before the state’s deadline. The board later in the meeting approved a budget preparation calendar. The board plans to listen to a report from Accuity, the company contracted to perform audits, in February.

• Griffith said enrollment is holding steady with higher numbers than last year at this time although there has been a drop in recent weeks — something that has been a trend historically. Total full-time enrollment at all schools, including Kings Valley, is sitting at 1,582 — up from the 1,557 in January 2021 and down from the 1,620 on opening day in September.

• Halliday said she is in the process of working on the 2023-24 and 2024-25 district calendar options for the board to consider. The biggest issue with the school calendar, she said, is whether or not to begin classes before or after Labor Day. Halliday would like to begin getting school calendars approved two years in advance to help with planning.

• The board approved revisions to a policy related to academic achievement but tabled a vote on another policy that outlines the class ranking process with the desire to see specifics included on valedictorian diplomas and how graduation speakers are chosen.

• The School Board started the evening with a 40-minute executive session to talk about staffing and legal-related issues as allowed under state statute.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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