By Marcy Stamper

The Methow Valley School Board unanimously supported a recommendation by School District Superintendent Tom Venable not to take action on two levies under consideration—for facilities improvements and transportation—at its meeting on July 23. The board and superintendent wanted to support the recovery process and be sensitive to economic and emotional needs of the community in the wake of the wildfire, said Venable.

The school district may reconsider asking voters to support the two levies—$4.5 million for facilities improvements and $800,000 for transportation—early next year, said Venable. The transportation levy was reduced from the original proposal of $1 million following public input.

“The facilities task force recognized the clear need in deferred maintenance and improvements that need to happen,” said Venable. “But we want to be sensitive to the needs of the community and the impact this event has created for all of us.”

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School-supply and class fees eliminated

In addition, the school board decided that the district would cover the cost of school supplies for elementary school students, which typically run from $30 to $40 per student, or a total of $5,000 to $7,000 for the entire school, said Venable. Students will be asked to bring a backpack, which will be filled with supplies such as notebooks, pens and pencils, and scissors.

Liberty Bell High School will also have school supplies available for students who need them.

This past spring, the school board had already eliminated course fees for the coming year for junior high and high school students. The district will cover fees for academic classes such as ceramics and photography.

There will still be fees for drivers’ education and for athletics and extracurricular activities, but the district maintains a fund to help any families who cannot pay these fees so that no student is excluded.

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Facilities use agreement for fire camp

For the vast fire camp that has been set up at Liberty Bell High School since July 17, the school district has an agreement to cover restoration of the campus once the camp has disbanded, said Venable. The majority of the agreement pertains to wear and tear on the grounds and buildings. There are about 1,700 people living and working at the camp, most staying in tents, according to Pete Buist, public information officer with the fire camp.

The district is also receiving $2,000 a day for use of the facility, which primarily covers services provided by district employees connected with the camp, said Venable. Venable does not expect the compensation to make a significant difference in overall school finances.

The district is currently advertising for a youth and family social worker who will assess needs of students and help connect them and their families to resources to assist with social and emotional needs. In a partnership with Room One, the school district had an employee in a similar position during the past academic year. Now that the person will be a school district employee, the district may use some revenue from the fire-camp rental to initiate a fund that will make the position sustainable on a long-term basis, said Venable.