The old reader board outside of Ness Elementary School in the West Valley School District stood there since the early 1980s, giving the neighborhood messages the old-school way, with movable letters a janitor would have to change with a long pole equipped with a suction cup.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, Ness now has an electronic reader board.
“It means everything,” said Principal Mike Lollar. He said that while the school sends news home with students, the reader board is their connection with the community.
The sign cost close to $12,500, including installation, and it took the PTO about three years to raise the funds. PTO President Chris Pierce said they raised money through catalog sales in the fall, candy sales in the spring, partnerships with local restaurants and through eScrip programs at grocery stores such as Safeway. Customers link their rewards cards to their neighborhood school and the school benefits.
“Anybody can do it,” Pierce said. “Even if you don’t have kids there.”
Pierce said the PTO raised almost $3,000 a year through this program.
The reader board isn’t the first major purchase the school has received from PTO. Three years ago, the organization bought playground equipment.
Lollar said the PTO also raises funds for school field trips and educational resources for classrooms.
Lollar said the field trips are an important piece of learning. Students share a common experience with trips to the Dishman Hills, Mobius Science Center, the Spokane Children’s Theater and more. It also helps those students who wouldn’t ordinarily get to go to these places with their families – nearly 70 percent of Ness’ students receive free or reduced lunch.
The new sign was turned on for the first time last week. It is 9 feet long and 3 feet high, and can display pictures, graphics and colors. Staff can program the messages ahead of time, display the time and temperature and turn it off at night.
“It’s a key piece of communication with parents,” Lollar said. The school can now post messages about late starts, holidays, skate nights and other activities.