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School blues?

When the first day of school started each September my mom put out the American flag. She was delighted, okay, ecstatic, watching her four daughters return to class; she welcomed routine.

But no one ever wondered about the family dog’s response. Seems our canine creatures may suffer separation anxiety when children leave for the school bus. If your puppy barks, howls - or worse - destroys furniture, shoes, toys, he may just be anxious and lonely.

Tips to help: keep departure time happy with treats or toys; create a comfy place of repose for your dog; start the new routine with a few practice days. If the house continues to receive the wrath of Fido, consult a veterinarian.

Our dogs give us unconditional love and acceptance and we reward them with our attention. No wonder they react when we withdraw and head for the classroom. Happy September.

(S-R archive photo) 

Where’s your messiah now?

It's certainly possible that road conditions far from my front door could be quite different.

But at first glance, it would appear that children's prayers for a snow day off from school fell on deaf ears.

Perhaps their promises to "be good" and clean up their rooms in exchange for schools being closed today were not deemed credible.

Dying to get into school

They came with blankets and hearts filled with hope. Longing to claim a spot at the University of Johannesburg, thousands of people lined up early in the morning in anticipation of possible acceptance into college. And then a stampede erupted, killing the mother of a prospective student.

We are often cavalier in the United States about higher education. Our college campuses are filled with students who party as enthusiastically as they may or may or not study.

With a joblessness rate among young people of 70 percent, and 600,000 college graduates unemployed, South Africa continues its after-apartheid challenges. And young people struggle to obtain the opportunity to develop their talents and share their gifts.

(S-R archives photo)

Elementary and middle school buses late on Friday

Friday morning school will start on time except for elementary and middle school students who bus. Elementary and middle school buses will pick up students later than normal due to the condition of the residential roads. Middle school students will be picked up 30 minutes later than normal and elementary students one hour later, giving the buses more time between routes to navigate rutted and difficult residential roads. High school bus pick-ups will remain the same.

Via e-mail from Spokane Public Schools

Buses running late Friday morning

Friday morning school will start on time except for elementary and middle school students who bus. Elementary and middle school buses will pick up students later than normal due to the condition of the residential roads. Middle school students will be picked up 30 minutes later than normal and elementary students one hour later, giving the buses more time between routes to navigate rutted and difficult residential roads. High school bus pick-ups will remain the same.

Via e-mail from Spokane Public Schools

Back to School Promises

I got a call this morning from an old friend, a woman who was there with me when our children were small. Those children are all grown up now (the "baby" is 15) but each year, at the beginning of September, we can't help but think back to the days when we had to gather books, crayons, lunches and sometimes bits of beloved "blankies" and fit it all into little backpacks. She called to ask me if I still had the "list." I do.

I wrote the list in the 1990s but looking at it now, I think it still applies:

(Originally printed Monday, September 2, 2002)

Start the school year with promises
Cheryl-Anne Millsap - Correspondent

My children know that on the first day of school, maybe even the first weeks of school, I'll get up early to make their eggs just the way they like them. Or arrange their pancakes and bacon into smiley faces.

They also know that by mid-February, there will be mornings I'll dig through the breadbox for power bars left over from Bloomsday, so they can eat breakfast on the school bus.

I know that my children will start the school year with sharpened pencils and carefully organized backpacks, and by May their desks will be full of dangerously unwound spiral notebooks, missing assignments and dried up markers.

Going to school can be hard work. Getting children to school can be hard work, too. We all (parents and children) start each year with the best of intentions, but the real world, with its deadlines and gray skies and big misunderstandings, comes crashing in on us. The little things, like smiley face breakfasts and organized backpacks fall by the wayside.

That's why before the craziness starts, I pull out the "back to school" list and put it on the refrigerator. It isn't a list of school supplies, or a list of things that need to be taken care of before school starts. It is a list of promises; part contract and part covenant. It tells my children what they can expect of me and what I expect of them in return. I keep it on the door of the refrigerator, pinned by magnetic poetry, hidden behind artwork and band calendars, until the edges curl and summer vacation comes at last.

I wrote the list years ago, before my youngest daughter was even born. I wrote it when I was a sleep-deprived, over-committed young mother trying to find the energy to get three children up and out the door every morning. I needed to remind us all that even though I wasn't going to school with them each day, I was a partner in their education.

Over the years my friends saw the list and asked for a copy to put on their refrigerators. Sometimes, teachers asked for a copy to put in their classrooms.


Back to school

I'll wake you up and get you to school. You can't learn if you aren't there.

I'll put you to bed when I think you need to go, and I'll make you stay there. You can't learn if you can't stay awake.

I'll buy you clothes that fit the season and fall somewhere between totally boring and incredibly cool. You can't learn if you are thinking about what you are wearing.

I'll help you have fun after school and on weekends, but I won't let you take on too much. You can't learn if you are too tired.

I'll give you a place to do your homework and I'll give you a helping hand, but I won't do it for you. You can't learn if you don't study.

I will stand beside your teacher, and together we will show you the wonders of the world. But you have to do the hard part and put your heart into everything you do. You can't learn if you don't care.

(You can hear an audio version of the column on PRX here.)

Watch out for the kids

Hey neighbors: slow down. Yes, the pavement is nice and new and smooth coming down Perry on your daily commute, but please slow down and watch the speed limit - school is back in session. Please watch out for the kids crossing Perry at Ninth Avenue (and everywhere else). There is still construction on Ninth - heaps of dirt and large machinery sometimes obscure the view - so please, please slow down.

As the neighborhood is developing we are (thankfully) seeing more pedestrians, both young and old, and we are seeing many more cars parked along the street in the business district and on the side streets. Watch out for each other - and please slow down.

ABM: Celebrating School’s End

  • 1. It’s the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!
  • 2. I’m happy that it’s the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!
  • 3. I got end of the year presents today (and earlier this week)…Diet Coke and Oreos and a movie gift certificate (from a mom who obviously knows me very well. Thanks, Alyson.), a Willow Tree trinket box, a basil planter, a Scentsy candle and burner, a set of watering bulbs (from the mom who knows that I do not have a green thumb), a shadow box with teacher stuff, and a huge, beautiful hanging plant. All mighty fine gifts, I think.
  • 4. We had our awards ceremony. Every student in the school got at least one award.
  • More from A Butterfly Moment here

Question: Did your kids get out of school today? What do you tell them when they say (as they will fairly soon this summer): “I’m bored”?

Toasting another school year with a strawberry shake


June 19, 2004

Funny how what we miss changes as we grow

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
Special to Handle Extra

The last day of school always catches me by surprise. So does the first day actually, but the routine is familiar and it doesn’t take long to get into the groove. Before I know it, it’s Christmas, and then spring break.

After that, the days gather speed until another year has passed. In the blur of final exams, recitals and sports, my children make a leap and I’m left with the bags of school papers, broken crayons and assorted hats and mittens they found stuffed in their desk.

This year, the last day was worse than usual. My son left home furious because, according to him, he would be the only student whose parents were abusive enough to make him go to school on the last day.

My daughter overslept, missed the bus and had to be driven to school. She stormed out of the car and into the building without a backward glance.

My youngest child sat quietly in the back seat and rode out the storm. When I delivered her to school, she hopped out of the car and trotted up to the front door, her backpack bobbing up and down. She turned around to smile at me and wave one last time before she disappeared inside.

I drove home and tried to work but I was restless and couldn’t focus. I was worried about my son, and couldn’t stop thinking about my 14-year-old daughter.

Our “welcome summer” tradition on the last day of school has been to go to the Milk Bottle on Garland for a celebratory lunch. In the past their friends have been invited and we were a rolling party of noisy, hungry kids.

This year, the teenagers all had something better to do, something that didn’t include me, so I found myself with only one child. The little third-grade graduate.

We ordered our usual cheeseburger special and while we waited for our food we talked about important things like who her teacher might be next year, and how much homework fourth-graders had.

Suddenly, she put her head down, hiding her face in her arms.

“Are you crying?” I asked. She just shrugged without lifting her head.

“What is it?”

She didn’t say anything for a minute then turned her head to the side. She looked up at me with large tear-filled hazel eyes, and a serious face — with exactly 28 freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose — and said, “I’m schoolsick.”

It’s funny how we can take words, like Playdoh, and squeeze them into new shapes. If her brother or sisters had said the same thing, it would have meant they were sick of school, sick of being told what to do and when to do it, sick of lessons and projects. Just sick of it all.

But she was heartsick because the school year was ending and weeks without the teacher she loved, and the comforting daily routine, were stretching out in front of her. She was bereft.

When our food arrived we stopped talking. She drank the milkshake first, then ate the fries one at a time, and finally a bite or two of the hamburger. By the time we finished, she was cheerful and chatty, full of plans for the summer.

We drove home, and I thought about the future. There aren’t many “hamburger parties” left before she’ll be too busy to celebrate with me. And I may never hear the word “schoolsick” again. Not in a good way, anyway.

That night, I kissed her and tucked her into bed. Then I walked into my room and looked into the mirror. “I’m childsick,” I told my reflection. And I understood exactly what I meant.

Another school shooting?

Yes. Another school shooting… Only this time, it took place in Germany. A 17-year old, identified as Tim Kretschmer, entered his high school in Winnenden, Germany, and open fired on his peers and teachers. It seems like it all happened rather quickly.
Entering the high school where he graduated last year, he burst into morning classes and opened fire, taking students and teachers by complete surprise.

“Children were sitting at their tables, with pencils still in their hands, their heads fallen over on the table,” said regional police director Ralf Michelfelder, describing the grisly scene that his officers found. “Most of them had shots in their head — it must have all happened in seconds.”

Kretschmer left the school hurriedly after shooting 9 kids, and 3 teachers. A police chase ensued, and ended at a dead end street where police found Kretschmer dead. He had shot himself in the head. This AP Article from MSNBC included a section where classmates shared with reporters their relationship to Kretschmer and how none of them had ever known him to be a “bad kid.” However one girl had met Kretschmer only a short bit ago and said he had shown her a note that he had written to his parents.
Sabienne Boehm, 12, said she recently had met the shooter and that he had claimed fellow students at the high school had mocked him and teachers there ignored him.

Three weeks ago, she said, he showed her a note. “He wrote to his parents that he’s suffering and he can’t go on,” she told the AP outside a memorial service at a town church late Wednesday.

School shootings such as this one are tragic. This particular one actually wasn’t Germany’s worst school shooting, but it was devastating to say the least. From 1996 up to know there have been at least a dozen major school shootings in the US and other countries. (Mainly Germany, Finland, DeKalb, and Scotland.) This wasn’t the first, and unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last.

Read more here. Also, here’s a video depicting the event a little more:

I don’t know that I have a question for this one, but feel free to discuss this and other school shootings/incidents, or anything relating to this.

Not illegal for a teacher to have sex with a student? Lawmakers in full “there oughta be a law” mode…

Lawmakers, unhappy with a recent court ruling saying that it’s not illegal for a teacher to have sex with a student, so long as the student’s 18, are trying to now make it illegal.

The recent court ruling “opens the door for this being open season on our 18-year-old students,” said Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland.

At a hearing at the state capitol Wednesday, a spokesman for the state association of criminal defense lawyers argued against criminalizing sex with 18-year-olds, even if they’re students. It’s like “taking the proverbial sledgehammer to a fly,” he said.

“For the 18- or 19-year-olds, at some point in life, we have to say you’re old enough to make your own choices,” said Wade Samuelson.

Click here to read the print story.

Amid recession and friendly fire, lawmakers put shoulder to wheel on school reforms…

In Tuesday morning’s paper:

OLYMPIA _ Trying to launch a big boat in rough waters, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers on Monday began making the case for a sweeping overhaul of Washington’s education system.

“All in all, we think this is the first comprehensive reform of the public education system in at least three decades,” said Sen. Fred Jarrett, D-Mercer Island.

Lawmakers began a full-court press for the bill Monday, with the first of several hearings.

Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the state board of education, called Senate Bill 5444 landmark legislation that “offers a way out of the cellar of national education statistics in which we find ourselves.”

The plan, hashed out in many hearings last year, would:
-more broadly define basic education and commit the state to paying for it,
-dramatically rewrite how teachers are paid and trained,
-boost from 19 to 24 the number of credits needed for high school graduation,
-boost the number of state-paid classes in high school from 5 a day to 6,
-and add help for low-income schools and students learning English.

Supporters say the changes would mean higher pay for teachers, billions of dollars more for schools, and the state – instead of local school district taxpayers — covering far more of the cost of education. Ultimately, they estimate, the proposal would mean about 50 percent more money for Washington’s schools. But many of the changes wouldn’t start until 2011, and even then, would be phased in over six years.

“Getting the structural changes in place is much more important than getting a specific (budget) number this year,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina. The state, he said, can start adding money as the economy improves. “You’re not trying to just put more money into the system. You’re trying to change how the system works.”

Trying to boost school spending 50 percent during a deep recession, said, Sen. Cheryl Pflug, R-Maple Valley, “doesn’t meet the straight face test.”

The proposal faces stiff competition from a competing plan backed by the associations representing school principles, teachers, administrators, non-teaching school staffers, and school


Students all over the United States are experiencing the stress of the upcoming (or dwindling) week of final exams.

It’s hard to say which is more prominent in finals week: studying or stress.  Having to cram in every spare second of spare time a student has is tough enough, but when the semester exams include every minute detail of every chapter, the stress explodes.

At Post Falls High School, six different final exams take place in two days only.  Wednesday and Thursday (of this week) will have three final exams each for every student in every class because the teachers are required to initiate some sort of final, whether it be an essay, a test, a project, or whatever.  Students have three ninety minute classes and three twenty-five minute classes each day.

Other schools, such as the Charter Academy in Coeur d’ Alene, divide the school year into trimesters instead.  This means that there are finals occur three times per year, but the study loads and tests are smaller.

What kind of final exam week does your school have?  How has it gone or is it going?  Would you prefer trimesters over semesters if you were given the choice?

No matter what kind of extreme week is ahead of you or behind you with final exams, you can count on the Vox Box to ease the stress.  So set down your backpack, take a load off, and chill out here for some crazy Blog-a-thon fun.

Eek! Ack! It’s a Suicidal Bunny!

Suicide. It’s horrible, It’s tragic. It’s…awesomely hilarious, if you are reading Andy Riley’s Book of Bunny Suicides. It’s filled with various ways the bunny kills himself. A bunny with the toaster in the kitchen, anyone?

Really, the book is funny. But I guess it didn’t meet the passing grade of an Oregon mom, as she demanded it be removed from her son’s high school library. In this Seattle Times story, the angry mom says “It is a comic book, but that’s not funny. Not at all.”

Have you read the book? Do you find it offensive? Would your parents find it offensive?


I wouldn’t want to be them…

Right now this is what many of the area school districts are up against.

Okay, I’m Growing Old of This

Central Valley, West Valley, East Valley, and Mead school districts are closed tomorrow. Spokane Public is not. Here’s the ESD 101 site to check for more closures.

2 weeks, 3 days?

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich may very well cancel school tomorrow. He’s holding a press conference this afternoon. I’ll post after he’s done (I think the press conference is at 4:30, so I’ll try to post soon after that.) Here’s the Spokesman blurb about it. 

Central Valley, West Valley, Nine Mile Falls, Medical Lake, Liberty, Mead, East Valley, Freeman, Great Northern, Orchard Prairie and Spokane districts will comply. Cheney and Riverside districts already had made the decision to close for the day. In Lincoln County, the Reardan-Edwall School District will be closed.  

Update: He has ‘strongly recommended’ the closure of all schools in Sookane County for tomorrow, and officials are checking if he can order the schools closed.  The link above is still good, and the grey box above shows school closures as told in that Spokesman story. Prep and St. Georges are closed, also.