Knappa High School is adding a foreign language instructor for the first time in several years. Warrenton High School is planning a new career-technical education center. Astoria is starting a robotics program and expanding college offerings.
Clatsop County’s five school districts are all taking advantage of $725,000 in additional funding this coming school year provided by the voter-approved Measure 98, meant to help high schools expand college credit options, career-technical programs and dropout prevention services.
With research showing that students who are on track by the end of ninth grade are dramatically more likely to graduate high school on time, each school district is investing in outreach. But school districts are also taking unique approaches to investing the Measure 98 money to expand options for students.
Knappa Superintendent Paulette Johnson said that while counseling was a non-negotiable need from her staff, the school district also has lacked a foreign language teacher since drastic budget cuts several years ago.
The district’s answer is to add a part-time, Measure 98-funded counselor to work with eighth- and ninth-graders who will spend the other part of their time as a district-funded foreign language high school teacher. The school district is also adding a math and science instructor out of its own budget to free up another to teach more technology and science classes aided by Measure 98.
Astoria Superintendent Craig Hoppes said the school district is using Measure 98 funding for a smattering of efforts. The district is adding a social worker to interface with families, increasing a middle school counselor from part time to full time, starting a program to help middle-schoolers transition to high school, expanding college course and career-technical offerings, providing more professional development for staff, starting a robotics program and exploring a program to connect employers with students.
Warrenton-Hammond Superintendent Mark Jeffery said that while his school district already does a good job of connecting kids with college courses, he wants to do more on vocational education.
“We’re starting pretty much from ground zero with our career tech,” he said. “We have the high-tech in, but it’s our intent to develop … welding and some woods.”
Jeffery said Measure 98 will help the district start a three- to five-year process of building a career-technical center similar to what the Area Vocational Center in Miles Crossing used to offer students. “My vision for it would be to construct a facility of some sort that would house everything from high-tech and welding to woods and autos,” Jeffery said.
In South County, Superintendent Sheila Roley in Seaside and Superintendent Alice Hunsaker in Jewell said they will invest their Measure 98 funds in freshman advising and career-technical expansion.
Measure 98 passed last year with a nearly two-thirds majority. The measure was to provide $800 per student to help with expanding college courses, career-technical programs and dropout prevention, but did not identify a funding source. The state Legislature, facing a budget gap, was left to decide how much would be funded.
“Initially, we thought we were only going to get $100 per student,” Johnson said.
But by early June, she said, educators learned the funding would be set at $400 per student. The county’s five districts will receive about $726,000 in the coming school year, and around $755,000 in the 2018-19 school year, after which the Legislature must decide again on the funding level. Hoppes said he doesn’t see the money slipping for a measure with such clear support from the public.
“Short of an economic downturn, I see funding increasing,” Jeffery said. “Even in hard times, they found at least half the funding. I think as the economy continues to improve and they find revenue streams, they’ll continue to increase funding.”