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Grants aid district operations

There's a new oven, Braves Hub access to all and more

It's been a busy fall quarter in the La Conner School District.

Owing to hard work and some long hours, La Conner School District staff, faculty and administration have successfully applied for and received grants that will benefit La Conner students and the community.

$16,000 grant provides new oven

The district's food service department received a $16,000 grant to purchase a new oven.

Food service supervisor Kelly Kjarstad reports that the ovens at the elementary school went out last year, and the cost to fix them was more than replacing them, due to age. The middle school oven was down to five racks and needed repairs. Food service continued as scheduled with the help of the district's food steamer.

When the middle school oven went down in September, school administration found and applied for an emergency grant for the new oven, which was installed Nov. 1.

"It took an entire month before the oven was delivered," Kjarstad said. "During that time my staff and I had to be creative and find hot dishes that could be ordered and cooked in the steamer. It was a challenge to say the least. Now we are able to build a menu with foods that are cooked in the oven as well as the steamer."

Kjarstad currently is working on more grant requests to replace other aging kitchen equipment.

Braves Hub free

to all students; hours extended

La Conner School District received a $2.5 million grant from the 21st Century Learning Center program to provide additional funding over five years to the Braves Hub, formerly known as Braves Club.

The grant means that the after-school hours at the Hub have been extended to a closing time of 6 p.m., providing additional time for families who work later in the evening.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the Hub now requires no registration fees. There is no cost for Braves Hub, no matter how many days a week a student attends.

Ryan Patrick began as the new program director/principal at the Braves Hub in October. Chloe Madison was recently hired as the site coordinator.

"We will be working together to create a new enhanced academic program here at the Hub," Patrick said. "Our goal is to create a fun environment where all of our kids can learn and grow."

Each afternoon begins with a time focused on reinforcing what students are learning in their classrooms. After that kids are involved in many new and exciting academic, social and community activities and projects, Patrick said.

Braves Hub is located at 301 N Sixth St. For information, call 360-399-1921.

Grant assists homeless families

The district recently was awarded a $25,000 grant to assist families in the community who lack fixed, adequate night-time residences.

La Conner School District is currently providing resources and support to 25 families, which include 37 students in the elementary, middle and high schools.

A majority of the award will be used to transport students to and from school.

"Often times these families are living in temporary housing, campgrounds, motels, and doubled up with others," said social worker Maureen Brennan. "Due to frequent changes in housing, the McKinney Vento law was established to guarantee that students remain enrolled and attend their schools of origin."

This grant enables the district to offset some of the transportation costs of these routes.

In addition to transportation to and from school, additional award monies will be used to provide families with household needs, school supplies, school clothes, and additional fees and supplies necessary to meet the academic, emotional and social needs of students.

If families have questions about eligibility, please contact Brennan, at La Conner Elementary, 360-466-3172, or Eric Crinklaw, at La Conner Middle School and High School, 360-466-3173.

Community effort seeks to install solar at schools

Federal Inflation Reduction Act funds through the state Department of Commerce have been issued as a $16,000 grant to the La Conner School District and the community for a feasibility study that it is hoped will result in solar power and backup battery systems for the schools.

A community outreach meeting about the effort has tentatively been set for February.

The grant application was pursued by a community partnership with the Town of La Conner and Skagit County.

"The feasibility study will help us to better understand the energy needs in the district and build a green energy response to that need, particularly as it relates to providing an emergency evacuation site," said town Councilwoman MaryLee Chamberlain.

The school is recognized by the town and the county as the area's emergency shelter.

The added benefit is that the solar panels would offset electrical costs for the school district, and the feasibility study would help the district with long-term planning and energy conservation opportunities, Chamberlain said.

The grant also will help develop cost estimates, design specifications and preparation for seeking an additional grant to install a solar power system for the district.

For more information, contact Chamberlain at [email protected].

Computer science grant received

Teachers Ryan Hiller and Emily Souders are pleased to announce the award of a Computer Science for All starter grant of $5,000 to improve the computer science program in the district.

The award this year is for planning with a "mission to make high-quality computer science an integral part of the educational experience of all kindergarten through 12th grade students and teachers, and to support student pathways to college and career success," Hiller said.

The district will be able to apply for a continuation of the grant in the amount $30,000 for next year and $15,000 the following year. The money will be used to bring more computer science opportunities to the high school. In addition, it will provide training so that teachers and students are able to learn how computer skills can be applied across all subject areas and can be used in alternative ways of learning and demonstrating knowledge.

"In today's rapidly changing world, computational thinking is a vital skillset, fostering problem solving, logical reasoning, and creativity," Hiller said. "It crosses traditional boundaries and equips students with the tools they need for success in an increasingly digital and interconnected world."

In the middle school, computer science programs are going well, and interest is growing, Souders said. Sixth graders learn the basic mechanics of coding. Seventh graders are grappling with the positive and negative impacts of artificial intelligence. Eighth graders are designing applications.

"I am consistently impressed with the creativity I witness in class each day," Souders said. "One student coded an animation to represent a social studies paper about the middle age, and it was a very exciting realization of the possibilities for multiple modes of demonstrating learning in the classroom."

GoFundMe drive provides musical instruments

A fundraising effort by the La Conner Arts Foundation has benefitted the music program at La Conner Elementary School.

An appeal for $600 resulted in $985 in donations.

The elementary school now has two alto xylophones, a soprano xylophone, three ukulele storage racks and 11 ukuleles for music teacher Karen Rentko to use with her students.

The La Conner Arts Foundation also had help in this endeavor from the Rick Epstein Foundation for the Arts.

La Conner School Board earns recognition from state organization

The La Conner School Board in November was recognized as the state's Small District School Board of the year and as a 2023 state School Board of Distinction.

The board includes Susie Deyo, John Agen, Loran James, Kim Pedroza and J.J. Wilbur, as well as Superintendent Dr. Will Nelson.

The awards, made by the Washington State School Directors Association, recognized La Conner's work on the district's math programs, as well as investments in programs such as Professional Learning Communities, Universal Design for Learning and Mastery-Based Learning.

It was determined by the association that La Conner School Board demonstrated creativity and resourcefulness in its role of supporting the success of students and staff, while working to close opportunity gaps among students.

The school board generally meets at 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the district administration building. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. More information is available at


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