Mullenix Ridge sixth graders can camp on weekend

"Though Mullenix Ridge Elementary parents didn't get exactly the camp they wanted, what they did get is better than nothing at all.After initially saying there would be no camp, the South Kitsap School Board Dec. 4 approved a weekend camp for Mullenix Ridge sixth-graders - with the proviso that it not interfere with regular school activities, cost the district any money or appropriate much-needed substitute teachers.Administrators say South Kitsap is not unique in its shortage of available substitutes, a situation shared by most districts statewide.After the double levy failure last spring, the district lacked the resources to continue field trips, including sixth-grade camp.Shortly after school started this fall, some Mullenix Ridge Elementary parents began negotiating with school administrators to continue a three-day, during-the-week camp. Parents and school administrators reached an impasse over providing the camp, and the issue found its way to the school board.Bill Wyant, assistant superintendent for curriculum, recommended against the traditional, weekday camp at the Dec. 4 school board meeting, suggesting Mullenix Ridge model a weekend camp after South Colby Elementary's. I wish there was a way we could have both worlds, but we can't at this time, he said. Planning and executing camp was somewhat labor intensive. Staff had to orchestrate all the behind-the-scenes preparations, from printing and collecting permission slips to organizing student medication. Initially, we stated we were being sensitive to people who had not lost their jobs, Wyant said. The district was loathe to heap more work on them given immediate staffing cuts.For nine years prior to the levy failures, Mullenix Ridge sixth-graders left home to attend Camp Seymour, a YMCA-owned camp in South Kitsap. Camp Seymour staff and Mullenix Ridge teachers would spend three days and two nights with the kids at camp, teaching environmental education classes, like predators and prey, survival and orienteering.High school students were brought in to serve as camp counsellors.Substitute teachers would cover absent teachers' classes at school while they were away at camp.After an early orientation the first day, campers would take their first class that afternoon. They learned the whole second day and half of the third day before heading home.Most sixth graders attended the camp each year, though a couple occasionally stayed behind for various reasons.The school board could find itself engaged in on-going discussions for sixth-grade camps around the district. Because each school is unique, Wyant said he will continue to address each request - for camps and field trips - individually. "

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