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Merger offers challenges, opportunities.

Byline: Faces and places by The Register-Guard

Name: Elmira Elementary School

Grades: Kindergarten through 5

Address: 88960 Territorial Road

School District: Fern Ridge

Area served: Fern Ridge Reservoir to the east, Noti/Walton area to the west, the community of Elmira, Territorial Road north from Highway 126 to the border of the Junction City School District

Principal: Mary Jo Simone

How long on the job: This is her 10th year. Previously, Simone was an assistant principal for three years at Laurel and Territorial elementary schools in the Junction City School District. She was a teacher there for 12 years before that.

What makes Elmira Elementary special: Simone says it's the caring students, staff and families; the rural setting and familial environment; the teamwork and collaboration among staff; and the tremendous parent involvement and support.

Number of students: 342, up from 270 last year. The school this year absorbed students from Noti Elementary School, which was closed last year as a way to lower costs for the financially beleaguered district.

How the merger is going: "It's hard to tell the Noti students from the Elmira students anymore," Simone says. "The children work and play together beautifully. We are a richer, fuller school, with more opportunities and resources, as a result of our blending."

Merging the parent clubs was difficult at first, she says, but as they've worked together, they've managed to preserve some time-honored traditions of both schools while bringing in new ideas, talents and energy. "We're having a great year, despite the challenges," she says. "It's like a large family - you learn a lot about give and take. Losing a school is hard, but we work to stay positive and appreciative of what we have."

As a symbol of unity and new beginnings, flowers will bloom this spring in the school garden from donated bulbs planted by students, a project spearheaded by a Noti parent.

Number of teachers: Twelve classroom teachers, as well as five full- and part-time specialists.

Total number of school employees: 28

Average years of teacher experience: 16

Average class size: 26

Programs the school is known for: Elmira has had mixed-grade classes since 1991 and offers various cross-age projects and activities. Other programs include schoolwide community service projects and Friday Club, a service club; character-building themes; arts programs through the Oregon Country Fair; tutors from the middle and high schools; the Effective Behavior Support program; and partnerships with several teaching colleges, including the University of Oregon and Pacific University.

Mascot: Eagle

Colors: Blue and gold

Namesake: The community of Elmira, which, according to the Oregon Geographic Names reference book, was renamed by an early settler after Elmira, Calif. It was originally called Duckworth.

Year it opened: The oldest of three wings opened in 1949, with others following in 1951 and 1965.

What it's built of: Concrete block and wood

Condition: Fair to good, depending on the wing. The school's office, library and computer lab were extensively remodeled in 2000.

Interesting history: A part of the school that now serves as a storage area was once the original "one-room" schoolhouse. Its centennial celebration was held in 1994.

Capacity: 385

How students fared on the 2002 statewide reading and math tests: Eighty-nine percent of both third- and fifth-graders met or exceeded standards in reading/literature, compared with a statewide average of 85 percent and 79 percent, respectively. In math, 77 percent of third-graders and 88 percent of fifth-graders met or exceeded standards, compared with 77 percent and 75 percent, respectively.

Poverty rate, based on number of students qualifying for free- or reduced-price meals: 39 percent

School Report Card rating (based on 2000-01 school year data): Strong, up from satisfactory the previous year.

Attendance rate: 95.3 percent

Upcoming events: IditaREAD, Feb. 28 to March 12, an event to encourage recreational reading, which is held in conjunction with the Iditarod sled dog race; a program involving local artists, starting this week and continuing through March, with funding from the Elmira Volunteer Organization and the Oregon Country Fair; a spring music program funded through the Elmira Volunteer Organization with support from the Oregon Festival of American Music.

- By Anne Williams


THOMAS BOYD / The Register-Guard Nani Baldree (left) and Alejandra Roberts read together in Kay Ross' second-grade class at Elmira Elementary after they complete their assignment early.
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 13, 2003
Previous Article:For the Record.
Next Article:Education Extra Bookpicks.

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