Connecting with Dr. Joe Morelock
September 18, 2021
Public Comment Listening Session
We recognize this is causing difficulties as students are not able to attend in-person while in quarantine. It is also causing some delays and difficulties for First Student, our bus provider, to get students to and from school.
We are doing our best to work on solutions, and we sincerely apologize for the hardship this places on some students and families.
Letter from earlier this week
Dear students, families, and community members,
Our school district has been in the news a lot lately. It adds a lot of stress for everyone, and I have concern for our students and staff. I want to remind us all that we are not the sum total of news headlines. We are people, and I believe that we’re all better off when we’re working together on these difficult issues and when treating each other with respect.
With regard to the social media incident that involved students at Newberg High School, I want to make it clear that racist and bullying behavior has no place in our schools or community. We are grateful to students and others who reported the incident. As Principal Erion wrote yesterday, we are taking this matter extremely seriously — we will investigate all involved and follow our policies for any disciplinary action. (By law and for student privacy, we cannot share the results of any disciplinary action taken.) We also are utilizing our systems of support for all students negatively affected by this and other bullying behavior. Thank you to our high school administration and counseling staff who are taking the lead, and to staff in all our schools.
With regard to the published statements of a staff member that is making the news, we cannot comment on personnel matters. We have reminded our entire staff of the state law requiring flags in classrooms, have taken actions to check each classroom across the district, and are committed to abiding by the law as a district.
We will not lose our focus on educating and supporting our students. We know that the students in our district are also capable of caring for each other and creating a “home” environment in our schools. When harmful actions are surfaced and the traumatic impacts of those actions are recognized, we all, students and adults, can work toward improving the environment and the supports for each person, no matter their identity. I offer the invitation for each of us to take great care and bring increased respect for each other’s humanity into every interaction we have in the days and weeks to come.
Dr. Joe Morelock
Newberg Public Schools
Construction Bond Update
Thanks to voters, we are going to make dramatic improvements to our facilities!
This construction bond means exciting things for our students and staff. While buildings were quiet all summer on break, BRIC Architecture, Cornerstone Management Group, and district administrators were hard at work on design, working with the city on the permitting process, and hiring contractors for two of our biggest projects.
The expansion at Catalyst Alternative High School, which also makes new space for Chehalem Online Academy (COA), is moving toward breaking ground next summer. You can see the latest version of the design above, which we are refining this week in many focus groups with staff, students, and community partners.
For the big projects at Newberg High School, which focus on Career Technical Education (CTE) and science, we have hired Pence Construction as the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC). They are hard at work planning schedules and helping with cost estimation to begin work next summer, and finish for the start of school in September 2023.
We're really excited to bring essential upgrades and improvements to Edwards Elementary School, including a new cafeteria and kitchen, permanent classrooms to replace portables, and a new gym which will allow us to re-purpose the existing gym for maker spaces (hands on, project-based learning) and other supports. We've hired Skanska USA as the CM/GC, and they are also already hard at work.
And there's so much more! A new elementary school for Dundee, maintenance and entry improvements and STEAM spaces at every school...we can't wait! Already over the summer, your bond dollars were at work replacing HVAC controls, chillers, broken kitchen coolers, and other important maintenance items.
Also, we are looking for people willing to serve on the Bond Oversight Committee. This is a citizen oversight group which ensures public tax dollars are being spent well throughout the construction process. The committee will be 7 - 10 people, meeting quarterly over the next several years. We had hoped to begin in August, but are looking for a few more people. Please contact Gregg Koskela (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions or to indicate your interest.
Our third year of a pandemic-affected school year has proven to be our most challenging yet. As discussed earlier in the memo above, we are having some transportation challenges due to either quarantining protocols or to a national school bus driver shortage. This is likely to continue in the months ahead as we navigate all of the details of keeping buses on the road.
We know this creates hardship for many families and we are doing everything we can to mitigate the impacts. We are working with our transportation provider, First Student, on supporting their communication needs, rerouting process, and pick-up and drop-off protocols. We know there will be more issues in the future if we lose drivers due to a variety of reasons, and we will continue to ask for your patience and your support should we need to make changes.
This is true for everyone affected. Families and their students, as well as teachers and staff at our buildings, are all part of the solution as we head into the later fall season. We have been working on alternative transportation options, and as those details are worked out, we will communicate those directly to those families and students who are affected.
You may also have noticed our nutrition service changes, with menus that may have to be updated during each week. Supply chain issues with our distributors has made it hard to get things as simple as baby carrots, paper wraps, and even pizzas. Our nutrition staff have been doing an amazing job getting supplies anywhere they can and putting together meals for all students every day.
It’s going to be all hands in for this school year, and I appreciate both your grace and your support as we navigate these very base-level challenges. I know teachers and staff have loved having their students back in school full time, and students are having a great experience being back in class and being with their peers. We can do this, and we will have to do it together.