My oldest daughter graduated from Liberty Bell High School in 2022 and the younger one will graduate this June. Over the past 14 years, I’ve been amazed at the range of programs they’ve had the opportunity to participate in.
My friends in larger cities are always surprised by the classes and experiences my kids have had. “Wait a minute,” they’ll interrupt me, “You’re saying that your daughter got to take six years of Chinese? In Winthrop?” Or, “Hang on, your kid gets independent study credits for serving on a nonprofit board of directors?”
I’m not sure what they’re picturing when they think of Methow Valley schools. A one-room schoolhouse? Students sharing primers and slates? Most likely, they’re imagining an institution like the ones they’ve witnessed in places where communities don’t widely support funding public education, with bare bones programming, large classes and limited opportunities.
In fifth grade, my kids’ entire classes got to attend North Cascades Institute for a three-day Mountain School, where they learned some of the natural history of the North Cascades. In sixth grade, they camped up the Chewuch, slept in wall tents, hiked Maple Pass, and canoed at Buck Lake. In seventh and ninth grades their classes completed Outward Bound programs.
One daughter spent three years in the Liberty Bell Drama Company. This year, in college, she took a script analysis class, and drew on some of her Drama Company experience to write her papers. Both kids competed in Poetry Out Loud all four years of high school and can bust out a memorized poem on demand should the need arise.
An Advanced Placement (AP) Art class was developed this year, to serve a group of seniors, including my younger child, who want to create a portfolio of art and submit it for an AP score. At the end of last summer, my older daughter took her high school AP Calculus binder of notes back to college with her, where she continues to use it to support her college calc classes.
My kids’ experiences aren’t unique among their classmates. Some of their friends are engaged in internships that give them real-world experiences. Some will be qualified for health care services jobs immediately upon graduation. A few are homeschooled in partnership with the district, giving them access to a range of school offerings. Others are learning skills like automotive technology, welding, and construction; with these skills they’ll have steady employment in the trades throughout their lives.
When our kids’ sports teams compete at other schools, a school bus drives them there, and they change into uniforms provided by the district. When they earn the chance to compete at the state level, the district pays for hotel rooms and meals.
Would all these students have received an adequate education without all of these additional academic, vocational, and extracurricular experiences? Of course. But don’t we want better than “adequate” for these valley kids?
You’ve probably guessed where this is going. All of these programs are offered to students free of charge, simply by virtue of being enrolled in the Methow Valley School District. And programs like these are only possible through the educational programs and educational technology levies, which bridge the gap between what state and federal funding covers and what it costs to actually provide a high-quality education for students.
If you already voted yes to renew both of the replacement levies (or, frankly, any other school districts’ replacement levies, depending on where you vote), thank you. If your ballot is still sitting on your kitchen counter, I hope you’ll get it in the mail this week, with both “yes” boxes filled in.