MT. VERNON - Physical education students and athletic programs will benefit from new restrooms and shower facilities at Mt. Vernon Middle School, thanks to a $358,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education.

The new facilities will comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and provide two new locker rooms on the north and west corners of the school so students can shower after athletic events. Two non-functional locker rooms likely will become storage space and possibly a site for the weight class, which currently uses the gymnasium stage.

Funding for these improvements totaled $455,000 with matching and in-kind contributions from the school district and county. On April 8, the Grant County Court voted 3-0 to allocate $42,000 as a match. The school district's share is $55,000, including money already devoted to architectural studies.

The School Repair, Idea and Technology Renovation Grant Program drew 103 applications just for the renovation funds, so Grant School District No. 3 Superintendent Newell Cleaver said the district was fortunate to acquire the grant.  "This is very competitive money," he noted.

The plan is to complete design work and select a bidder by next school year.

"Our goal would be to have it ready by next fall," Cleaver said.

In other recent school district news:

• Grant Union High School officials decided to discontinue the Channel One program, a current-events curriculum using donated televisions. Principal Mark Witty explained that the 12-minute news program was discontinued because school leaders decided to focus on hard print sources of news that would fit better with the school curriculum. Grant Union tried Channel One for a year, with the agreement that the televisions and other equipment will be returned when the program stops.

• Due to safety concerns, Humbolt Elementary Principal Mark Burrows said a 4-foot fence will be erected between the parking area and the bus-loading zone. Also, parents have been alerted that poisonous hobo spiders have been seen on campus. Staff installed traps to eliminate the pests, which resemble wolf spiders.

• Cleaver explained that a January ballot referral from the Oregon Legislature will affect district funding. If the measure fails, the school district will lose $159,000 of existing funding, Cleaver said.  • The school board on Sept. 18 discussed the district's transition to a new campus, due to realignment of grades and closure of Blue Mountain Junior High School in John Day. The rationale for the three-year planning process that precipitated realignment was the looming trend of shrinking enrollment. Cleaver reported that unofficial enrollment districtwide on Sept. 16 was 869 students, down from 877 students in June 2002. Seneca School counted 48 students; Humbolt, 355; MVMS, 187; and GUHS, 279.

Enrollment losses could have been worse. In a non-resident student report from Sept. 18, officials calculated that 44 students from Dayville, Long Creek and Prairie City attended Grant School District No. 3, while only nine District 3 students attended school in Dayville and Prairie City, with none going to school in Long Creek.

• In a consent agenda on Sept. 18, the school board accepted letters of resignation from junior high assistant track coach Debby McClellan; junior varsity girls' basketball coach Jake Bacon; and junior high girls' basketball coach Brandi Russell. The board also approved the hiring of Barb Ingram as a MVMS special education teacher; Julie Hyde as Seneca School musical instructional assistant; Max Goin as MVMS athletic director; Ada Cruz as MVMS bilingual assistant; Sarah Ceja as Humbolt Elementary bilingual assistant; Sonna Smith as GUHS head track coach; and Cammi Copenhaver and Billi Newman as MVMS assistant volleyball coaches in a job share.

• The board also agreed to interview candidates Gordon Larson and Traci Unterwegner for a vacancy on the school board. The school board expects to make its appointment at the October meeting, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9.

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