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Category: Schools & Education

One-of-a-kind river installed at Clear Lake Elementary

Students at Clear Lake Elementary School are celebrating their uniqueness with an art project that is now on display outside the school.

Inspired by the book Only One You by Linda Kranz and a school in Indiana that took on the same task, students in every grade painted rocks to express their unique personalities. Now that they are on display together, the pieces form a rock river in the courtyard of the school.

The theme of the book-inspired project is, “There’s only one you in this great big world … make it a better place.”

This will be a reminder to students as they go through their elementary years, and on, that they are special and have the power to make this world a better place, simply by being them, said Julia Ortman, school counselor.

Windsor Rock donated rocks for the project, Egan Gardens provided bark dust for the display, McNary High School World of Work Students, led by teacher Kevin Wise, weeded and cleaned the courtyard area, Happy Hearted Designs provided a sign and the Clear Lake Parent-Teacher Association provided funds for items like paint and brushes.

“I believe Clear Lake Elementary and the city of Keizer is a great place to be, because of things like this. When an entire community can come together for an art project like this, you know that each individual is helping make the world a better place for all students,” Ortman said.

McNary cadets to learn to fly

Of the Keizertimes

Casey Toavs, a senior at McNary High School, has wanted to fly ever since he first went up in a plane with his father, a flight instructor.

This summer, Toavs and another McNary cadet, Noah Egli, will get their shot.

Both Toavs and Egli have been selected to participate in the first Flight Academy Scholarship Program, where they will attend an aviation program at one of six partnering universities to get a private pilot license.

The scholarship, valued at $20,000, covers transportation, room and board, academics and flight hours.

The McNary cadets were two of 120 chosen out of more than 800 who applied.

“The dream and the goal was always to become an Air Force pilot and I saw this as a great opportunity and a step to get there,” Toavs said.

Egli, who has participated in Young Eagles, a program by the Experimental Aircraft Association in Independence that allows kids to ride in an airplane, always saw the opportunity to fly as nothing but a dream.

“Being able to do this and get a private pilot license, it makes it feel like an actual job I can do in the future instead of it just being a dream,” he said.

To get into the program, Egli and Toavs had to take the written Aviation Qualifying Test and take a physical fitness exam, which included a 1-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups and sit reach.

They’ll be assigned to one of six universities—the Embry-Riddle Florida campus, Kansas State, North Dakota, Purdue, Liberty or Auburn.

The Flight Academy Scholarship Program is a new Air Force-level initiative in collaboration with the commercial aviation industry to address the national civilian and military pilot shortage. AFJROTC has been charged by the Air Force Aircrew Crisis Task Force to bring back the “luster of aviation” to high school students and increase diversity in aviation fields.

Civilian airline industry experts project a demand for 117,000 new commercial pilots over the next 20 years. The Air Force is currently short of at least 1,500 pilots to fulfill its requirements.

Both Toavs and Egli have been in the Air Force Junior ROTC program at McNary for four years.

“I was a pretty shy kid and I needed an extra class,” said Egli, who is now the group commander as well as on the color guard, unarmed and armed drill teams at McNary.

“I thought I might as well take this class and learn some leadership skills and I’ve definitely grown since my freshman year. It’s a very fun class.”

Toavs and another McNary cadet are in charge of planning the military ball on April 7 at the Reed Opera House in Salem.

“The want to get into this program here at McNary kind of stemmed form my want to become an Air Force pilot,” Toavs said.

“I saw it as another opportunity to help me get where I wanted to go and I also thought it was a good program that I could learn some leadership skills from, which would help me in many aspects of life.”

Both cadets plan to participate in ROTC programs in college and then enlist in the military after graduation.

Egli is going to Oregon State University.

Toavs has been accepted to OSU as well as Embry-Riddle, North Dakota and the University of Portland.

“It’s a different perspective looking at the earth from that height,” Toavs said.

Bond passage would have far-reaching effects

Of the Keizertimes

If voters approve a $619.7 million Salem-Keizer School District (SKSD) bond measure in May, improvements at McNary High School and Gubser Elementary School will be some of the first in the district to receive renovations and redesigns.

While those projects would be among the first to undergo construction, the bond plan includes improvements or maintenance projects at every school in SKSD.

As the second largest high school in the district, administrators have long planned for McNary to be near the top of the list, but Gubser was more of a surprise, said Superintendent Christy Perry.

“Gubser is one of the most overpopulated elementary schools right now. We tried placing an additional teacher there to help with class sizes, but there simply wasn’t enough space in the building,” Perry said.

There is still an additional teacher at Gubser, but they float throughout the building and assist where they are needed most, she said.

In that sense, improvements at Gubser – including three new classrooms, a dedicated cafeteria and kitchen and gym upgrades – will have the effect of lowering class sizes. That will not be the case for all schools, but bonds can only pay for capital improvement projects and not continuing budget items like teacher salaries. The latter funds are much more volatile and heavily dependent on state funding set by the Oregon Legislature.

The biggest single change district-wide, if the bond is approved by voters, will be increasing capacity at five of the six high schools to 2,200 students. At McNary, that will mean about 200 more students than are currently enrolled, but it will also mean that the portable classrooms some classes use will be replaced with permanent structures.

The bond will cost a homeowner $1.24 more per $1,000 of valuation than they currently pay. For a home valued at $200,000, that amounts to roughly $250 per year.

For the first time in decades, polling paid for by the district suggested taxpayers were amenable to an increase in what they pay for schools. Polls suggested comfort with $1.51 to $2.50, but the SKSD board went for an even lower amount. Polling also directed how the funds will be used, Perry said.

“What resonated in polling was career technical education (CTE) classrooms, safety and security, expansion of classrooms and seismic preparedness,” she said.

On the CTE end of things, each of the SKSD high schools will be getting two dedicated CTE spaces with the intention of establishing dedicated programming at each school based on desires and the local market needs.

“We have a coordinator for CTE programs and he’s put together an investment program for the next several years. We want to make sure that the schools understand what the students want and need,” said Mike Wolfe, the district’s chief operations officer.

While the new space will create opportunities for additional programs, it might mean that some current programs move within the schools.

“The culinary program at McNary is a great space that we’ve invested in through grants over several years. That might be a program that gets moved into one of the new CTE spaces and the existing space becomes an incubator for another CTE program,” Wolfe said.

The bond also includes funding for revamping and realigning existing spaces and specifically puts money toward music education space at every school.

The district is already assembling design teams for each school and will eventually enlist community representatives to serve on site teams if the bond passes. Those teams will hammer out specifics within the district’s overall design plans as the process moves forward.

In regard to safety and seismic concerns, several schools will be getting new card-access security systems and some front offices will be renovated or realigned with front entrances for optimal supervision of the school entries.

Many schools will receive seismic strengthening, but any new buildings constructed will be constructed for re-occupancy. That means new spaces will be built to withstand a catastrophic event and then be used as a shelter or headquarters for community recovery efforts.

“Every feeder system will have buildings to use for shelter in the event of a catastrophe like a major earthquake,” Perry said.

One of the biggest differences between this bond measure and the last one, for $242 million, approved by voters in 2008, is how the money will be used, Wolfe said. About $160 million of the 2008 total was used to catch up on deferred maintenance projects, but that process helped district administrators hone in on bond priorities this time around.

“We were able to become more familiar with our facilities through the implementation of the 2008 bond and we were able to focus on the future and meeting growth projections for the next 10 to 20 years,” Wolfe said.

“The district did a good job with that money as far as what was promised and what was delivered. My hope is that the process built trust  with voters as good stewards of public money,” Perry added.

At a glance: Keizer’s place in SKSD bond

McNary High

14 new classrooms

1 new science lab

2 career technical education spaces

Dedicated special education class space

A new flexible learning space

Replacement classrooms (13,700 sq. ft.)

Repurposed/renovated space for admin and support staff

Redesigned parking lot and additional parking

Purchase of additional property and relocating sports fields

Claggett Creek Creek Middle

Cafeteria expansion

Converting 3 classrooms into 2 science labs

Library upgrades

Gubser Elementary School

3 new classrooms

Dedicated cafeteria and kitchen

Gym upgrades

Keizer Elementary

4 new classrooms

Dedicated cafeteria and kitchen

Library upgrades

Cummings Elementary

Cafeteria expansion

Sidewalks along campus

McNary drama remakes classic

Of the Keizertimes

In preparing for Wizard of Oz, McNary drama director Tom Cavanaugh told his students not to re-watch the classic film and make the iconic characters their own.

That’s been harder for some than others.

“I watched it (the movie) as a kid and I would always hide behind the couch when the witch came out and now I’m playing it (Wicked Witch of the West),” McNary senior Camryn Ronnow said.

But Ronnow has enjoyed the challenge.

“I wanted to play the Witch because it’s a really iconic role and I just really wanted to see if I could do it,” Ronnow said. “It’s a challenge and in my acting experience, most of the roles that I have played have been sort of similar to who I am. I wanted to be the Wicked Witch really bad because it’s just so opposite and fun. I’ve just been mixing together the Joker and the kind of insane crazy mean stuff and then just doing what comes naturally to me. It’s just all kind of mixed together to be this character.”

Playing Glinda, the good witch, has been easier for McNary senior Sydnie Gould.

“It’s so much fun,” Gould said. “I love it. I get to be pink. I keep calling myself a puff pastry. That’s basically what Glinda is. I love playing her. She’s just really happy and fun and gets to clap along with the munchkins.”

Gould, Ronnow and the rest of the McNary drama department debuted Wizard of Oz on Thursday, Nov. 9 in the Ken Collins Theater. The musical runs Friday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 at 2 and 7 p.m. as well as Nov. 16-17 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 and 7 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and available online at

Over the Rainbow Tea Parties will also take place at noon before the matinees, and include treats, face painting, photo opportunities with the characters and admission to the show for $12.

Grace Condello, who was in the ensemble in Beauty and the Beast and The Addams Family, is playing her first lead as Dorothy.

“I’ve never had this experience before and being Dorothy of all leads is kind of crazy because she’s in the entire show but it’s been so much fun,” Condello said. “It’s kind of a dream come true for me. Dorothy is just a dream role for every alto. It’s just been an incredible experience.”

Condello did already have a relationship with Over the Rainbow.

“It was my first solo I ever did so it was really special to me,” Condello said. “It’s such a great song, it’s a classic and I love singing it.”

Condello is putting a different take on Dorothy.

“I’m trying to play Dorothy as less of a whiney teenage girl, which she can definitely be played as,” Condello said. “I’ve kind of taken my inspiration from Rapunzel in Tangled. She goes out of the tower for the first time and she has no idea what’s happening and she’s taking it all in and her energy and enthusiasm in that, I’m trying to draw from her. Instead of being whiney, being more feisty and trying to figure things out more for myself.”

Condello’s favorite dance number comes from a song that’s not even in the movie—The Jitterbug.

“It’s exhausting but it’s totally worth it,” she said. “When we fall on the ground, we really are falling on the ground in exhaustion because it just takes it out of you. But it’s super fun.”

McNary choir director Joshua Rist’s dog, Johann Sebastian Bach, is playing Toto.

“He is such a good dog,” Condello said. “It’s unreal.”

McNary seniors Matthew Albright, Steven Cummings and Brian Gragg are playing the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion.

“That’s my mom’s favorite movie so I’ve been watching it since I was little,” Cummings said of the Wizard of Oz. “I decided I didn’t want to re-watch the movie because scarecrow is one of my favorite characters and I knew if I watched it I’d pretend to be Ray Bolger the whole time.”

Jacob Fritts (Wizard of Oz), Kennadi Thomas (Emerald Guard), Madelyn Hurst (Aunt Em) and Ricky Galvan (Uncle Henry) make up the rest of the cast, which also includes an ensemble and 18 munchkins made up of Whiteaker and City Dance Theatre students.

Elementary Schools

7425 Meadowglen Street N.
Keizer, OR 97303

613 Cummings Lane N
Keizer, OR 97303

6610 14th Avenue NE
Keizer, OR 97303

7905 June Reid Place
Keizer, OR 97303

5600 McClure Street N
Keizer, OR 97303

4912 Noren Avenue NE
Keizer, OR 97303

1825 Alder Drive NE
Keizer, OR 97303

Local Private Schools

Blanchet Catholic School (map)
4373 Market St. NE, Salem
(503) 391-2639

Sonshine School (map)
395 Marion Street NE, Salem
(503) 375-5764

Willamette Christian School (map)
2105 Keizer Road NE , Keizer

Willamette Valley Christian School (map)
9075 Pueblo Ave NE, Brooks
(503) 393-5236