Growth is focus as City Council, Issaquah School Board meet

May 1, 2012

City and Issaquah School District leaders pledged coordination and cooperation as the city outlines a bold plan to add thousands of residences in the decades ahead.

Chad Magendanz

Discussion about the Central Issaquah Plan — a proposal to transform more than 900 acres near Interstate 90 and state Route 900 — and possible changes to the school district, such as redrawing boundaries for schools to accommodate population shifts, dominated the annual joint meeting April 24.

City Council and Issaquah School Board members, plus Mayor Ava Frisinger and Superintendent Steve Rasmussen and other officials, gathered at Mandarin Garden a week after school district voters approved a $219 million bond to fuel a school construction boom. The planned projects include major changes for schools in downtown Issaquah.

The groups, seated beneath red lanterns and arranged around lazy Susans, sipped tea and nibbled on fried rice and roast pork as discussion unfolded about long-term development plans. (The city hosted the meal and spent $311.24 on food and beverages.)

“Both organizations have gone from fast-growing organizations to more stable, mature organizations with different sets of issues,” Council President Tola Marts said. “So, now the challenge is how do we manage the remaining growth that we have?”

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Grand Ridge Elementary’s Lightning Readers win county library contest

April 17, 2012

The Grand Ridge Elementary School Lightning Readers celebrate winning the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge on March 23. By Tom Corriga

They started in October, eight students setting out to read 10 books.

They spent plenty of their own time between the covers of those books, but toward the end of the challenge they gave up their recess and lunch times to stay in the classroom in order to read and answer questions about what they’d read.

“And all that paid off,” declared Grand Ridge Elementary School student Gargi Panatula.

The Issaquah School District has entered the King County Library System’s Global Reading Challenge for 11 years. Teams competitively answer questions about assigned books. Issaquah squads have made the finals previously. But the district has never won the championship. That changed March 23 when Grand Ridge’s Lightning Readers went the distance and beat out three other finalist teams to win the Grand Challenge.

“And I think we got smarter,” team member Emma Huryn said.

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Native American storyteller passes on traditional tales to next generation

February 28, 2012

Native American storyteller Roger Fernandes helps students at Grand Ridge Elementary School play the bone guessing game.Photos By Tom Corrigan

Roger Fernandes believes his visits to schools such as Grand Ridge Elementary School are essentially public relations appearances for Native Americans.

An artist and Native American storyteller, Fernandes put in an appearance at Grand Ridge on Feb. 16. He and students from the school put on a performance — songs, dances and native games — for parents and school staff members that evening.

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Mardi Gras theme comes to Grand Ridge Elementary School auction

January 24, 2012

Artwork like this piece, ‘Hands,’ is up for auction to raise money for the Grand Ridge Elementary School PTA. Contributed

A past president of the Grand Ridge Elementary School PTA, Lida Buckner makes no secret of the fact she wants to start a tradition.

Buckner is one of the driving forces behind the school’s first auction event, dubbed Mardi Gras 2012. The fundraiser is split into two parts, an online auction and a live auction event. The online portion of the fundraiser began Jan. 22 and runs through Jan. 29. The live auction is set for Feb. 11 at the Hilton Garden Inn Issaquah.

Buckner said proceeds will benefit science, art and music programs, as well as programs run by the school PTSA.

During the online event, parents and others can bid on 37 original student art projects, one from each classroom in the Issaquah Highlands school. As for the live event, organizers wanted to make it a little different. Buckner said their choice of the Hilton Garden Inn as a venue is another reason the live auction will run a bit unlike similar events parents and others may have seen put together by other schools.

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Grant awards support local projects

November 29, 2011

The Issaquah Community Network recently awarded eight grants totaling $7,000 and, according to the network, those grants are aimed at supporting local school activities and efforts to promote healthy youth and strong families.

Awards were made at the regular meeting of the Issaquah Community Network board Nov. 7.

“We were pleased to receive grant applications from a mix of previous grantees and new applicants,” said Judy Brewer, board chairwoman.

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Bugs and plants create excitement about fourth-grade science

November 1, 2011

Rachel Lee (left), Caleb McDonald, Hailey Warren and Brian Chan (hidden, right), four of Grand Ridge Elementary School teacher Becky Rappin’s fourth-grade students, make observations on their terrarium after placing isopods — common pill bugs —in the soil. By Greg Farrar

When Becky Rappin asks who might want to help transport crickets, there is no shortage of volunteers. Hands go up all around Rappin’s fourth-grade classroom at Grand Ridge Elementary School.

The crickets are just one element in the students’ study of ecosystems, that study being part of the new science curriculum implemented this year at elementary schools throughout the Issaquah School District.

“There’s a lot of excitement about this program,” Rappin said. “There is just so much hands on, it gets kids thinking and observing.”

Parent volunteer Lisa Porter said students put together from scratch the terrariums and aquariums lined up at the back of Rappin’s classroom. The first step was washing out the plastic bottles that are the basic components.

With the cone-shaped top half of the bottles removed, the bottoms of bottles were filled with dirt, and students planted alfalfa, rye and mustard plants. There are also leaves scattered in the makeshift terrariums.

On this day, for the first time, students will be adding live insects — isopods or potato bugs and the already mentioned crickets — to the terrariums. Also made out of the bottom half of bottles, small aquariums already have residents including plants, pond snails and mosquito fish or guppies.

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Teachers eager to implement adopted science curriculum

November 1, 2011

Steve Rasmussen

The mad scientists have returned to their classrooms and some are completing observations of crickets, pill bugs and other creatures and plant life.

“Kids don’t just learn science, they do science,” said Joanne Griesemer, a curriculum specialist for the Issaquah School District.

Griesemer was referring to the district’s new science curriculum and said she has been happily busy over the past few months helping implement that curriculum.

During the past spring and summer, the Issaquah Schools Foundation, in partnership with the local PTSA, put on various fundraisers and took in roughly $438,000 toward replacing the district’s kindergarten through fifth-grade science materials. The fundraisers included having students dressed as mad scientists soliciting donations at various locations.

District officials pledged to match the foundation’s efforts with $700,000. The end result was the purchase of $1.1 million in new science materials. That includes everything from textbooks and workbooks to models, measuring instruments and so on. Every elementary school in the district has gotten at least some of those items.

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Grand Ridge students are on the fence about art

October 18, 2011

Third-graders Sophia Jones (left) and Petek Mertan help put together the newest creation to adorn a fence surrounding the school garden at Grand Ridge Elementary School. By Tom Corrigan

The day was overcast and windy, a pretty typical fall day in Issaquah.

But since there was no rain, when they came out for recess, some of the youngsters at Grand Ridge Elementary School in the Issaquah Highlands were nevertheless asked to help out in the school’s community garden.

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Family Village causes no concerns among Issaquah school officials

September 20, 2011

Occupants were expected to move in en masse in late June and managers expected most residents to occupy the new $53 million YWCA Family Village at Issaquah in the Issaquah Highlands by late August.

Designed to be affordable housing, Family Village is expected to attract its fair share of, well, families, including school-age children. Still, Issaquah School District officials say they are ready for what they expect to be a modest influx of new students.

Family Village consists of 146 units of affordable housing, said Cathy MacCaul, director of community affairs for the local YWCA.

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Education opportunities grow in student gardens

August 23, 2011

Sunny Hills Elementary School first-grader Digant Dash (left) plants flower bulbs in the school’s first-grade garden with fourth-graders Derek Chao and Spencer Bernsten. By Jane Ulrich

Inch by inch, row by row, students are planting lettuce, herbs and broccoli in their school gardens.

This fall, teachers are transforming gardens into outdoor classrooms as students pick up trowels and learn about drip irrigation systems.

Dozens of schools incorporate gardening into their curriculum or have gardening clubs, including Apollo, Cascade Ridge, Challenger, Clark, Creekside, Discovery, Endeavour, Grand Ridge, Issaquah Valley, Maple Hills and Sunny Hills elementary schools; Issaquah and Pine Lake middle schools; and Liberty and Tiger Mountain Community high schools.

“I think the outdoors is just a natural place that kids want to be,” Sunny Hills fourth-grade teacher Jane Ulrich said.

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