Tuesday, November 22, 2016 -- Ridgefield, Washington -- Three Ridgefield High School music students have been accepted into the 2017 honor choirs sponsored by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) - Northwest Division. NAfME's Northwest Division encompasses six states: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.
Julianne Hess, a senior, was accepted into the NAfME All-Northwest Mixed Honor Choir. Max Kunetz, a junior, and Bridget McCallie, a freshman, were both accepted into the All-State Symphonic Choir for the Washington Music Education Association (WMEA), a federated state unit of NAfME.
As members of these honor choirs, the students have earned the privilege of performing at the 2017 NAfME Northwest Division Conference scheduled February 16-19, 2017 in Bellevue, Washington and will have the opportunity to collaborate alongside other Northwest Division students selected for the honor.
The honor groups are organized expressly for Grade 9-12 students of classroom NAfME member educators only. Bob Meek, Ridgefield High School choir teacher and NAfME member, encouraged his students to submit their applications and audition tapes for the coveted choir spots earlier in the school year. The applications were screened at the state level and ultimately at the Northwest level for placement in the honor groups.
Meek received official word of the students' acceptances on Monday, November 14.
The All-Northwest honor groups span seven categories: Band, Wind Symphony, Orchestra, Mixed Choir, Treble Choir, Jazz Band and Jazz Choir. WMEA's All-State honor groups include three categories: Concert Band, Symphonic Choir and Symphony Orchestra.
"I'm so excited to have the opportunity to expand my voice and keep doing what I love," said Hess. Kunetz and McCallie were equally thrilled at hearing the news. "I didn't think I would make it this far!" said Kunetz. McCallie added, "I'm just excited to get to be part of the All-State Honor Group!"
All three students are now moving forward with plans to travel to Bellevue in February to rehearse with fellow student honorees for their performances at the Northwest Division Conference. They will be rehearsing with and performing under the direction of prominent conductors from colleges, universities, symphony orchestras and bands from around the country. "For all involved," said Meek, "very cool honors."
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 -- Ridgefield, Washington -- It's been an annual tradition in the small-town community of Ridgefield for years -- a chance for families to join their kids for a special Thanksgiving school lunch and to give thanks for the community they live in.
Ridgefield School District's food services, operated by Chartwells, together with community leaders from the City of Ridgefield team up each year to host the popular event.
According to Connie Vowels, the district's Director of Food Services, the event brings the community together each year. "Ridgefield School District partners closely with our community leaders," said Vowels. "This event is a great way for us to support and engage with the community."
South Ridge Elementary School welcomed over 600 guests at their Thanksgiving lunch on Tuesday, November 15; later in the week, the district's other three schools, Union Ridge Elementary School, View Ridge Middle School and Ridgefield High School collectively served an additional 1,100 students, family members and school staff.
City of Ridgefield officials donned aprons and helped to serve the traditional lunch. This year's menu included turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, fresh vegetables, stuffing, dinner rolls, apples, cranberries and pumpkin pie.
Students from Ridgefield High School's student leadership group dressed up in Chartwells' character costumes and added to the festivities, handing out apples to students and mingling with the crowd. The characters: Lionel the Lion, Sydney the Turtle, and Ava the Rabbit (each representing a component of Chartwell's motto, "Eat, Learn and Live,") help to promote healthy eating in schools.
Overall, approximately 1,735 students and parents attended the traditional Thanksgiving feasts last week -- a record for the small but rapidly growing school district. "The best numbers in my nine years here," said Vowels.
Friday, November 18, 2016 -- Ridgefield, Washington -- Ridgefield High School student, Kobee Nelson, was honored this week with a prestigious award from KWRL Transportation Cooperative. The co-op, which provides bus services for students in the Kalama, Woodland, Ridgefield and La Center school districts, awarded Nelson with the KWRL Hero Award for Honorable Stewardship for taking action on behalf of vulnerable students on the school bus and preventing potentially unsafe situations.
The Ridgefield School District learned the news earlier this week from KWRL's Transportation Director, Shannon Barnett. Nelson is a junior at Ridgefield High School.
According to Barnett, bus surveillance videos in the past week showed how Nelson, on various occasions, went out of his way to assist a disadvantaged student on the bus, defending the student from other students. The videos also showed Nelson preventing disadvantaged students from harming themselves even as they were unaware of his intentions and were combative toward him.
Upon seeing a disadvantaged student on the bus getting picked on, Nelson said he made the decision to intervene because he had the power to make a difference. "If you want to test a man's true character, give him power," is a quote from Abraham Lincoln and are words that Nelson says he tries to live by.
In his message to the school district, Barnett noted that the award is only presented to bus drivers who rise above and beyond the call of duty in the course of their duties. Because of the degree of outstanding citizenship and distinguished stewardship that Nelson demonstrated, Barnett made an exception in this case. The KWRL Hero Award for Honorable Stewardship is the first ever to be awarded to a student.
The Ridgefield School District is proud to congratulate Kobee Nelson on receiving this exceptional award.
Thursday, November 17, 2016 -- Ridgefield, Washington -- Students and staff in the Ridgefield School District set time aside from regular school activities in recent days to commemorate Veterans Day at special assemblies. Each school welcomed veterans and members of the military attending the celebrations, which were held at each school.
At Union Ridge Elementary School's assembly on Wednesday, November 9, students from each grade level performed for parents, staff, veterans and active-duty members of the military. Fifth-grader, Kennadi Jones, started the assembly by singing the "Star Spangled Banner." Kindergarteners performed the "Pledge of Allegiance" in sign language, and each grade level followed with special performances--patriotic songs, student reflections about Veterans Day, and presentations of donations, thank you notes, flowers and cards--for the appreciative crowd of veterans.
"We are the recipients of many who have sacrificed all to give us the gift of freedom," said Kelly Macdonald, Union Ridge Elementary School principal. "It is important to teach our students about the legacy of Veteran's Day and how to properly thank our nation's servicemen and women for their sacrifices."
Next door, just moments later at View Ridge Middle School, students were gathering in the gym for their assembly. After a performance of "America the Beautiful" by the school choir, there was a short presentation by Principal Tony Smith. Students enjoyed a short skit presented by their classmates, then watched a video created by the student leadership group showing students and staff talking about their relatives who are veterans.
Michelle Hankins, View Ridge Middle School's ASB Advisor, commented on the collaborative effort by the ASB and the choir. "It was great to see how so many different people contributed to making the assembly a success," she said.
Ridgefield High School's Veterans Day assembly was held on Thursday, November 10 and was emceed by students Brandon Lehto and Tyler Lehnertz. It included performances by both the high school band and choir as well as a flag presentation by an honor guard comprised of members from a local Boy Scout troop. Guest speaker, U.S. Army Sergeant Seth Christie, was on hand to give a short presentation, and the assembly ended with videos celebrating veterans, "To Salute Our Veterans -- Amazing Grace" and "Proud to be an American with Ronald Reagan."
"Ridgefield High School proudly honors all our service members, past, present, and future," said Tony VanderMaas, principal. "Veterans Day assemblies allow the school to pause and pay respect to those who sacrificed for our country and served something larger than themselves." This life lesson, he added, "is essential in the preparation of our young adults."
South Ridge Elementary School held their Veterans Day assembly on Monday, November 14. To convey the meaning of remembering loved ones lost while serving in the military, Principal, Todd Graves, read the students a story entitled "The Wall" by Eve Bunting, in which a child reflects on his visit to the Vietnam War Memorial where his grandfather is honored.
In keeping with the school's ASB-led program to celebrate a different character trait each month, South Ridge Elementary also took the opportunity during the assembly to recognize classes that displayed the best example of resilience, the character trait for November. Resilience tied in well with Veterans Day, as it is demonstrated by veterans' readjustment to normal life when returning home to family and friends.
"Our Veterans Day assemblies are opportunities for children to honor and give thanks to those men and women who have served and who are serving in our United States military," said Heather Westbrook, school counselor at South Ridge Elementary. "An assembly is a chance to bring meaning and understanding to this day, to teach children about the important role veterans play, and to teach a little history as well."
Friday, November 11, 2016 - Ridgefield, WA - On Tuesday, November 8, Ridgefield School District's board members voted in favor of putting a $78 million bond issue up for vote on February 14, 2017. If approved by the voters, the bond proceeds will alleviate overcrowded classrooms by funding the construction of two new schools, expand Ridgefield High School, enhance security at two elementary schools, and repurpose the middle school. Additionally, through a partnership with the City of Ridgefield, an outdoor recreation complex will be constructed that will also serve as the schools' athletic and physical education fields and capture an estimated $5 million of savings for the school district.
Due to Ridgefield's booming population growth, all four of the district's existing schools are currently over capacity by at least 130 students. District enrollment has increased by approximately 13 percent this year. The bond will ease overcrowding by adding 1,300 new classroom seats and provide modern, flexible, energy-efficient classrooms that are more conducive to learning.
The upcoming bond request is Phase II of the district's four-phase plan. The first phase was the bond approved by voters in 2012. That project was completed in the fall of 2014 on-schedule and on-budget.
If approved, the bond measure will support the construction and development of $98.5 million worth of projects:
* Two distinct schools on a new school campus on South Hillhurst Road across from the existing high school: a new intermediate school for grades 5-6 and a new middle school for grades 7-8;
* New classroom building at Ridgefield High School that will house science, special education, fine arts, general education, a library/media center, and administrative offices;
* Safety and security enhancements at Union Ridge Elementary School and South Ridge Elementary School;
* Repurposing of View Ridge Middle School to house to include expanded community education programming, consolidated administrative and support services, and space for a partner-agency;
* An outdoor sports complex (constructed by the City of Ridgefield and saving the school district $5million).
Of the $98.5 million, $77.965 million will come from the bond proceeds and $15.5 million from state matching funds. The remaining $5.035 million will come from the City of Ridgefield, which will construct the new six-field outdoor public sports complex on the new school campus. Thanks to its partnership with the city, the district will expend zero dollars for the sports complex and will instead realize a substantial savings of $5.035 million.
The district's Capital Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) is spearheading the bond program. Made up of a volunteer group of parents, citizens, and staff from the Ridgefield community, the committee engaged with the community to provide the district with valuable feedback on how to best address Ridgefield's rapid growth.
Last year, the committee submitted a plan showing what the district would look like in 20 years. Its projections showed that in 2035, school enrollment would increase by more than 160%, and the district would have more than double the number of its existing schools--specifically, four elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, one small alternative high school, and one small specialty high school (potentially on a partner site).
The collaboration between CFAC and the district provided the information needed to shape the design plans for Phase II, which will be funded by the upcoming bond.
"This bond measure was vetted and created through extensive deliberation from community volunteers, parents and staff," said Board President Scott Gullickson. "This bond is representative of our next step in maintaining quality schools and effective learning environments as Ridgefield continues its pursuit of being the premier school district in the state."
Flexibility is built into the new school design plan. According to Superintendent Dr. Nathan McCann, the proposed new Grade 5-8 campus could be restructured if necessary in the event that student enrollment doesn't keep increasing as projected. "We're not going to overbuild," said McCann. "As stewards of the taxpayers dollars, we continue to put forward plans that are both financially responsible and meet the needs of Ridgefield's growing student population."
Currently, the bond tax rate for Ridgefield is $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If approved, the proposed bond measure is projected to increase the bond tax rate by $0.77. For the owner of a $250,000 home, that would mean an increase in the bond tax rate of $16.04 per month.
Thursday, November 10, 2016 -- Ridgefield, Washington -- On Friday, November 4, students at Union Ridge Elementary, from kindergarteners to sixth-graders, took part in the school's annual Dance-a-Thon, a school-wide fundraiser supported by the school's parent group, Parents Together Organization (PTO). Every year, families and community members sponsor the students for the event. The students gladly take part, knowing that in the 30 minutes they get to spend on the "dance floor", they are also helping to raise money for their school and having a great time doing it.
"The students mimick a dancer projected on a screen. Even the shyest of students were enjoying the music and moving to the beat!" said Kelly Macdonald, principal. "A big thank you goes out to the wonderful community of Ridgefield for all of their support."
The Dance-a-Thon fundraiser is, by far, Union Ridge Elementary's most successful. This year was record-breaking, with over $14,000 committed. Benefits from the event will be used to purchase needed equipment and fund school-wide activities.
Tuesday, November 8, 2016 -- Ridgefield, WA -- On November 8, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the November Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting.
The Employee of the Month is Dorothy Roth, South Ridge Elementary School library assistant. A dedicated employee of the Ridgefield School District, Dorothy has served countless students and staff members in the school library over the years. In addition to her library work, she can be found every morning and afternoon making sure that students and their families get safely through the busy school parking lot to and from the school. Dorothy has a big heart, and the staff proudly selected her for this honor for the way she gives it her all every day at South Ridge Elementary.
Students of the Month
Gavin Weaver, a first-grader, was chosen at South Ridge Elementary School. Gavin arrives at school each day with a smile, ready to learn. He is eager to participate in any learning task, no matter how challenging and always tries his best. His teacher and staff commented on the many strong skills Gavin has established this year in developing friendships and productively learning and playing with others. Both in and out of the classroom, he is focused on meeting his unique learning goals. Union Ridge Elementary is proud to select Gavin Weaver as its November Student of the Month.
Mia Whitton, a kindergartener, was selected at Union Ridge Elementary. She is described as a wonderful student and friend who strengthens her school community by doing her best in all that she does. Mia is respectful to her teacher and the school staff. She is considerate, listens when others are speaking, is willing to share with others and takes turns. She also plays well with other students and is sensitive to how they are feeling and helps them when needed. By being respectful, kind and considerate, Mia exhibits "Tater Tot" pride every single day for her classroom community at Union Ridge.
J'Lyn Davies, an eighth grader, was selected from View Ridge Middle School because of her willingness to go above and beyond the tasks she is assigned. An intuitive and thoughtful student, J'Lyn brings an interesting perspective in understanding the concepts taught in class. Fellow classmates and teachers agree that it is a pleasure to have J'Lyn in class and are proud to select her as their Student of the Month.
Ashley Vega-Lazaro, a sophomore, was chosen from Ridgefield High School. Ashley is described as a student who "challenges herself by taking AP classes" and being involved in school activities. Not only does she participate in soccer, tennis, and Speech and Debate, but she also serves as a Camp Cispus counselor and volunteers every Saturday at Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital. In addition, she and her family are currently hosting a foreign exchange student this school year. Because of her active involvement in school and in her community, Ridgefield High School proudly selects Ashley Vega-Lazaro as its November Student of the Month.
Ridgefield School District is grateful to its sponsor, the historic Sportsman's Restaurant and Lounge, a local Ridgefield business owned and operated by Terry Hurd. This is the third year that Hurd has provided funding to support the district's recognition program.