Volunteers help cover school funding gaps

Ken Wick (left) and Dr. Bruce Cummings (right) paint the crosswalk in front of Joseph elementary school Friday. Such activities are on the rise as volunteers try to cover the gap in school maintenance and repair caused by revenue shortfalls. Photo by Rick Swart

Some things are more important than money.

Such as the safety of young children.

With that in mind a group of Joseph parents spent the day after Thanksgiving working to make Joseph elementary school just a little bit safer.

Armed with cans of bright yellow paint, members of the school site council on Friday painted crosswalks and traffic directional signs on the street in front of the school.

The project was just the latest example of a growing trend in Wallowa County in the wake of budget cuts at public schools - volunteers pitching in to help their schools make ends meet.

Volunteering is nothing new for parents at Wallowa County schools. But the need for volunteers has taken on a new sense of urgency in light of current budget woes.

At Joseph, where a proposed $300,000 operating levy was defeated at the polls in November, lack of funds needed to paint the crosswalks is just the tip of the iceberg.

School officials are now using their fax machine to make copies because their copier is broken and there is no money in the budget for repairs, let alone a new machine. There is no door on one of the stalls in the boys' latrine. Playground balls are worn out. The music program is without percussion instruments. These are just a few of the needs that the site council - a group of concerned parents and teachers - have identified at Joseph.

"If we're going to have a public school in this community it looks like we all need to pitch in and help," said Marjori Cummings, a member of the site council and one of the volunteers involved in painting the crosswalks.

There is plenty of work for volunteers to do. Last fall, for example, Enterprise parents and teachers spruced up Bill Ortman memorial football field by pulling weeds, hauling off trash, and painting the field house - chores usually handled by the school's maintenance staff, which like other departments has been reduced because of declining revenues. Volunteers also took care of the maintenance at Joseph's football field this year.

Work parties are not only good for the school, they are good for morale because people have to pull together.

"In a way it's better than giving money and hoping something will be done with it," said Ken Wick, another one of the painters at Joseph elementary. "Attaining a goal is nice," he added, referring to the Enterprise Education Foundation's goal of raising $300,000 a year in private contributions for the next five years. "But climbing the ladder together sometimes is even more important."

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