Seventh-grader Aaron Davidson, 12, of Round Mountain, volunteered to paint the trim on his school because he wanted to help make his school look better, and he likes the way helping out makes him feel.
In this day of budget cuts and downsizing, one intermountain school district is saving money and increasing its enrollment with the help of its citizens. Community volunteers have saved the tiny Mountain Union School District thousands of dollars in repairs and beautification projects.
The volunteers aren’t just parents and students but also people from the area who feel a sense of community, said Matt Carroll, principal and superintendent.
“We have a good volunteer spirit around here,” he said. “And it’s saved the district many thousands of dollars.”
On a recent weekend, volunteers gathered at 7:30 a.m. to paint the exterior of Montgomery Creek School in Montgomery Creek. That saved the school district about $10,000, said Steve Trotter, head of maintenance. Before the painting began, an additional $5,000 was saved by volunteers replacing siding on parts of the building. Volunteers have been saving the school district money since last year.
The school’s new color will no longer be shades of white, which some thought gave it a prison look, to shades of green: the color “Greening” for the exterior and “Island of Pines” for the trim, Trotter said. Once the painting is complete the school’s mascot, the Wolverine, will be painted on a prominent gable seen from Highway 299 East.
Carroll said when the school district combined its two schools — Cedar Creek Elementary and Montgomery Creek middle school — into one school at the larger Montgomery Creek, it saved the school district more than $30,000 (so far) in just energy, transportation, custodial and even Dumpster rental costs. That figure doesn’t factor in the money saved by the volunteers who helped the two schools combine into one, Trotter added. His crew no longer has to clean two schools at the end of the year.
When it came time to move the elementary school’s playground equipment it would have cost the district as much to pay professional to move it as it would to purchase new equipment, Trotter said.
The equipment wasn’t old enough to be replaced, so the volunteers moved it to Montgomery Creek, saving the district $3,000, he said. Cox & Sons Construction transported the pea gravel for free and “that was when gas was $5 a gallon,” he said. That was worth some $750.
Sugar Pine inmate crews do jobs around the district that frees up the maintenance crew to do other work, Trotter said.
“I invite parents or anyone to come by and see the great projects the school is accomplishing,” Carroll said.
The district has received an “extreme hardship grant” for $120,000 for reroofing the school, which will be disbursed 21 percent a year over five years, Carroll said. The district also has $100,000 in deferred maintenance that eventually will be used for heating and ventilation if the district doesn’t experience any more budget cuts, he said. The budget has lost almost $400 per student. The state can take more away in the next few months, and probably will, he said. It sits right around $1 million at this point.
The school’s carpeting needs replacing; Carroll said he thinks the district will save money again if volunteers help the maintenance crew install the carpet.
The parking lot’s blacktop has not been resurfaced in almost eight years and is on the list for needed repairs, Carroll said.
Steve Trotter, head of the district’s maintenance, spray paints the exterior of the building as volunteers watch.
Also helping the school is an increase in enrollment. Last school year ended with 68 students; this year about 80 students are enrolled so far, Carroll said. He attributes the increase to the sense of family the school offers since most people know each other outside the school. When the two schools were first combined, parents of the younger students were concerned about how their children would assimilate into a school environment with older students. But the older students took the position of role model seriously and helped the younger students adjust, Carroll said.
The sense of community carries over into the academics as well, he said. The school has an “excellent G.A.T.E. ,” Gifted and Talented Education, program and last year the students went to the state competition of Odyssey of the Mind and placed in the top three, Carroll said.
The School Health Academic Recreation Enrichment, or SHARE, despite its budget cuts, will still be working with students after school on homework and other areas where they need assistance.
Now that the two schools are one, it needs a name to solidify the unity of the school, and he will be presenting a suggestion to the school board, Carroll said. The school’s name is Montgomery Creek School but the district’s name is Mountain Union School District.
Carroll said Cedar Creek School still houses the Acorn Community Enterprises day care and after school programs, a karate class is offered in the gym and Hill Country Health and Wellness Center is renting space. There is an idea being considered to use the school for pre-school and adult education classes, he said.