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Bulletproof Blankets

As Unapologeticdemocrat noted in the Gun Violence thread, bulletproof blankets are a thing— and sales are booming.

The alarming rate of school shootings across the country appears to have added an unsettling new item to parents' list of "back to school" items: bulletproof armor for their children. Among such items, the Bodyguard Blanket, a portable, bulletproof covering for children, has seen its sales exceed its manufacturer's expectations in less than two weeks on the market.

Stan Schone, managing partner at manufacturer ProTecht, told The Huffington Post that consumer response to the product has "far exceeded our wildest expectations" in the 10 days that the blanket has been available for purchase.

As reported first in the Oklahoman, the blanket was conceived to protect children during natural disasters. The blanket is made "with the same bullet resistant materials that shield our soldiers in battle," according to one advertisement. In the event of a tornado — or shooting — children can wrap themselves in the blanket in a duck-and-cover position to shield from bullets, debris or other projectiles. Read more. Huffington Post

If this doesn't make you sad, what will?  Do you want local schools to stock up on bulletproof blankets?

UI summer science camps let nature be teacher

NATURE — The University of Idaho is offering summer science camps that allow youths grades 6 through 11 to go outdoors for hands-on discovery.

Enrollment is open for students interested in spending a week The McCall Outdoor Science School on the shores of Payette Lake learning from University of Idaho graduate students, exploring the mountains, lakes and rivers of central Idaho and releasing their inner scientist.

  • River Science Boys’ Expedition: June 22-27, Grades 6-9, $387.50
  • W.O.W.S. (Women Outdoor with Science): July 6-11, Grades 6-11, $387.50

These are five-day field science expeditions where students explore the rugged Idaho mountains, go whitewater rafting and learn what university climate, water and alternative energy researchers are studying.

  • Beyond MOSS: July 13-18, Grades 6-9, $297.50

This five-day program goes beyond the school year MOSS program for those who have been to MOSS or who will be coming soon.

  • Adventure Day Camp: June 17-August 1; Grades 3-5 and 6-9, Cost varies

This day camp focuses on learning, playing and enjoying nature while letting imagination drive discovery.

The McCall Outdoor Science School is an outreach of the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources. The residential science school engages Idaho students in year-round learning through our school partnerships. The college also hosts an on-site graduate program for university students who serve as teachers while working towards their graduate degrees.

Idaho wildlife experts talk turkey to teachers

WILDLIFE — Wild turkeys have a lesson to teach, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, which has scheduled a teacher's workshop based on the birds this month.

Although turkeys roam wild areas and neighborhoods alike, many people know very little about the giant birds, said Phil Cooper, department wildlife educator.

What do they eat?  Where do they sleep to avoid predators? Do they nest in trees or on the ground?  Why do some gobble and others not? Are domestic turkeys and wild turkeys the same? 

And, why are some of them walking around these days with their brilliantly colored tail feathers all fanned out? 

A “Wild about Turkeys” Project Wild workshop is being offered in northern Idaho for teachers and youth leaders. Attendees will learn about the interesting and unusual habits of the wild turkey, a non-native species that was introduced into Idaho in the 1960’s. 

Grade school educators often talk about turkeys when Thanksgiving rolls around each November.  Teachers participating in this workshop will receive activity guides they can use with their students…and the materials are tied to Idaho’s state standards!  

Scheduled for April 25-26, the workshop includes a Friday evening (4-9 p.m.) at the Post Falls Cabela’s store, and most of the day on Saturday, which includes a field trip.  Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. 

Sign up for this or a future Project Wild workshop online at fishandgame.idaho.gov. Go to the “education” tab, then click on “Project Wild” specialized workshops.   Optional continuing education credits are available through multiple Idaho Universities for a fee.

Friday Quote: “Shop class deserves a more prominent role in schools”

​Last week I wrote for TreeHugger about how bringing back an updated version of Home Economics class in schools could benefit all children by teaching them important life skills. Similarly, I think that shop class for both boys and girls should have a more prominent role in the education system, since there are many advantages to knowing how to work with one’s hands. I’m not the only one who thinks this way. According to an article in the Boston Globe, “Some educators resist giving woodshop the chop,” some American schools are regretting their decision to get rid of woodshops in the 1990s in order to make room for new technology-based learning.

Shop class is wonderful for students who don’t learn well in traditional academic settings. It allows students to be active and to produce tangible, functional results. Doug Stowe, a woodworker and teacher from Arkansas, has a blog called “Wisdom the Hands,” dedicated to the concept that hands are essential to learning. “Does working with your hands make you smarter? Woodworking teachers have observed that effect for years.” Stowe points out on his blog that “students need to find ways to cope under difficult circumstances,” and shop class offers a unique setting for them to de-stress by working with their hands.

Plummer-Worley OKs Tax Levy

Voters in the Plummer Worley School District on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation approved a two-year tax levy Tuesday that will spare the district from eliminating funding for all athletics, moving to a four-day school week and making other severe budget cuts. About 60 percent of the votes cast were in favor of the $1.1 million supplemental levy request. “Needless to say, we are ecstatic,” Superintendent Judi Sharrett said. The cash-strapped district of about 400 students had eliminated all sports funding, cut kindergarten to part time and ordered three furlough days for all employees, and it was ready to cut one day off the school week starting this fall/Scott Maben, SR. More here.

Question: 5 of 6 levies passed statewide last night. Does this mean Idaho's anti-education movement is waning?

Spokane-area instructors groomed for fly fishing in the schools

FLY FISHING — An instructor training program for the National Fishing in Schools Program — a nationwide program that brings outdoor education indoors to students in grades 6-12 — is set for Sunday (March 24) at the Loon Lake Elementary School.

The idea is to give more adults the skills and tools to get kids hooked on a lifetime sport.

Info: Sondra Collins, (509) 710-8329.


Allan: Carlson Wrong Re: Donations

Before I respond to Chris Carlson’s recent column attacking the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Indian Gaming, I want to start by disclosing a few things. First, I support Indian gaming. I have seen first-hand how gaming on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation has transformed this community and delivered our people from abject poverty and a century-long dearth of opportunity. I see the pride in our people that comes from the hope and opportunity that gaming provides. That is precisely the reason Indian gaming was embraced by the United States and the state of Idaho. Second, I echo what many wonderful people in this community have already expressed; I too am tired of the hostility directed toward the tribe based on false information and inaccurate half-truths. That type of hate-inspired rhetoric should not and cannot be tolerated any longer/Chief Allan, Coeur d'Alene Tribe chairman. More here.

DFO: Chief Allan of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe is at odds with Publisher Dan Hammes of the St. Maries Gazette Record and Chris Carlson, who writes for the weekly newspaper, re: state oversight of required donations of gaming proceeds to area schools. Carlson has also question the propriety of the tribe contributing designated school donations to the Coeur d'Alene Kroc Center.

Detectives offer sex offender information

Here's a report from Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Recent angst regarding a suspected sex offender watching children at a Spokane Valley school has prompted the sheriff’s Sex Crimes unit to offer information that might clarify how sex offenders are monitored in Spokane County and eliminate some common misconceptions.

There are about 1,400 registered sex offenders (RSO’s) in Spokane County, a number that changes slightly day-to-day.  Tracking these offenders is a joint effort by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the Spokane Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.  Each agency has personnel assigned to register, track and monitor each of these 1,400 RSO’s.

The sheriff’s office has three detectives, one deputy and a secretary dedicated full-time to this effort.  SPD has two full-time detectives and the marshal’s office has one full-time agent and several who work it part-time in addition to other duties.

When a suspect is convicted of a sex or kidnapping offense that mandates registration, and then is released from custody, he is required to go to the sheriff’s office and register.  The Department of Corrections (DOC) will have designated a “Level,” I, II or III – one being considered the least likely to re-offend and three being the most likely.  This “leveling” is based on a statewide standard.  If an offender comes from another state or was not confined, sheriff’s detectives assign him a level based on the same DOC standards.

All RSO’s receive regular visits at their homes by a detective or deputy to verify they are living at the address they registered.  Level I offenders are visited at least once a year, Level II at least twice and Level III at least four times.  They are visited each and every time they change their address as well.  If an offender has no home, he is registered as a transient and must report in-person weekly to the sheriff’s office.

    When an offender is sentenced, he can be released to be supervised by DOC until his sentence time as expired.  While on DOC supervision, there may be restrictions set by the Community Corrections Officer restricting his or her freedom to live or work in certain places – schools or daycares, for instance.  If an offender has completed his sentence and is no longer on supervision, he is free to live and work anywhere he wants – there are no legal restrictions.

In some rare instances, the court may note that an offender is a “Sexually Violent Predator” and will restrict where he can live – not within 880 feet of a school, for instance.  Without this court designation, offenders are free to live anywhere they choose.

If an offender fails to comply with his registration requirements, a detective will write a warrant request for him.  Regardless of where the offender is found in the United States, he will be brought back to Spokane County for prosecution.

Members of the sex offender units go online daily to search for predators and users/makers of child pornography.  These cases are aggressively investigated, and when possible, search warrants are written and executed for the perpetrators.

The sheriff’s office will notify schools when offenders tell us they will be attending or working there.  Schools have the responsibility to notify certain members of their staff.  However, this only applies when the offender attends or works in the school.  Schools are not required to notify students, parents or neighbors if the offender merely lives nearby.

When a sex offender registers, his or her name is entered into a statewide law enforcement database with the Washington State Patrol.  The name is also entered into a sex offender database called Offender Watch which is accessible to anyone with a computer.  A person can look up his own address and the database will show all Level II and III offenders in the neighborhood.  By state law, level one offenders are exempted.

The following limited public information about an RSO may be released by law enforcement –

For Level II and III offenders, a flyer is printed and distributed to SCOPE and COPS offices where volunteers distribute them in a two block radius of the neighborhood where the offender is living.  Level III information is released to media as well.

For Level I offenders, information may only be released to the offender’s victims, witnesses and individual community members who live near the offender and who request it.

When people see known RSO’s in schools, daycares, libraries, parks and other places children might frequent, we ask that they remember that offenders have the same rights to be there as everyone else, and to be free from harassment.  However, we also welcome calls if the RSO is in any way acting suspiciously.

Budget cuts and school changes

What kind of changes are you hearing about at your kids' schools due to budget cuts? I'm hearing larger class sizes by combining grades, as in first-graders and second-graders in the same class and 3-4, 5-6 combos. Then upwards of 31 kids in the room. 

Be interested in how some other schools are addressing this.

Hillyard Mann Center clarification

At this morning's meeting in the Historic Hillyard Merchants Committee it was brought up that Spokane Public Schools will put in an alternative high school program at the Mann Center. I just checked with Spokane Public Schools and that's not correct. Spokane Public Schools does not own the building and has no plans - as of right now - to put a program there. There were some plans to pursue this idea in spring of last year, but so far nothing has come of it.

MT student won’t be expelled over gun

GUNS — A Columbia Falls High School student who inadvertently brought an unloaded rifle to school in the trunk of her car will not be expelled, the Associated Press reports.

The school board made its unanimous decision Monday night, and the 16-year-old honor student and varsity cheerleader was allowed back in class today.

The junior was suspended Dec. 1 after contraband-sniffing dogs were brought to school and she told administrators she had forgotten the rifle she put in her trunk after a weekend hunting trip.

Monday’s disciplinary hearing had to be moved to a school gymnasium to accommodate the nearly 150 people who attended, some of whom waved signs criticizing school officials’ handling of the case and decrying federal gun laws.

Dean Chisholm, the board’s vice chairman, said the incident appears to be “an unintentional act by a young lady who regrets it, who understands the policy.”

Teen hunter forgot gun in car, faces expulsion from school

HUNTING — A 16 year-old honor roll student and cheerleader from Columbia Falls, Mont., faces expulson from high school after she told school officials after she arrived for classes that she’d forgotten to remove her hunting rifle from her car after a Thanksgiving weekend hunt.

Even though the rifle was unloaded, in its case and locked in the trunk of her car, and even though she brought the oversight to the attenion of the school authorities, she’s likely to be a victim of the school’s no tolerance policy on guns, according to Mac Minard, Montana Outfitters & Guides Association executive director.

Huckleberries story plucker Dave Oliveria has the story.

Just how far West does the 5th District go?

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers recently assured constituents she was working to make sure the government delivers on its payments to school districts that have large hunks of federally owned land in them, like national parks, military bases or tribal lands.

She sponsored legislation to require the feds to pay up, and promptly, on this so-called impact aid. But in conveying her assurances to constituents, some staffer who drafted the letter (little secret: congresspersons rarely write their own letters) apparently forgot to look closely at the map.

I know first-hand the impact that the budget deficits have had on our schools,” McMorris Rodgerswrites in a Dear Friends letter.  ” Late payments by the Department of Education have only exacerbated the situation in many school districts.  The bill that I am supporting will remedy the chronically late distribution of Impact Aid payments many school districts receive from the Department of Education.  For example, the Oak Harbor school district that I represent received a payment of nearly $1 million to conclude their Impact Aid payments due from Fiscal Year 2006 – three years after the initial award

Oak Harbor? That’s a mountain range and a ferry ride away from the westernmost outpost of Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District. Unless they know something about redistricting that the rest of us don’t.

Basic education bill: the details…

In a bill closely watched by schools advocates, the state Senate plans to vote on — and presumably pass — an amended version of HB 2261 this afternoon.

“We’re working with the governor and members of the House to agree on a bill to responsibly reform and retool our educational system,” Senate education committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe said in a statement about the proposal. “It’s critical that these reforms are meaningful and phased in over time to actually achieve and maintain progress. But we cannot disregard our current economic climate, particularly as we make drastic cuts to our schools, colleges and universities and eliminate health care coverage for tens of thousands of people.”

I wrote about some of the political tension around this bill in this morning’s paper. The short version: the state PTA and others are pushing to redefine basic education (which the state must pay for), while the state teacher’s union says the real battle should be trying to stave off a billion in cuts right now.

Here are some highlights from the Senate version of the plan:

-Redefines basic education: increases instructional hours from 1000 to 1080 a year, phased in over years. “Opportunity to complete 24 credits” for high school graduation. New transportation funding formula phased in, beginning in 2013.

-More: definition will include all-day kindergarten, phased in at highest-poverty schools first. Also, money for gifted students. It also starts down the path toward expanding early learning for at-risk kids.

-Prototype school: The amended bill will create a standard “core allocation” to base school funding on, including enhancements for gifted students, advanced placement and spelling out staffing levels in law. It would take effect in 2011.

-Timeline: The new definition of basic ed would be fully in efffect by 2018.

-Accountability: the state board of education would have to set up “a system to identify schools for recognition and additional support.”

-Teacher certification: the state Professional Educator Standards Board would have to “adopt performance standards for effective teaching and recommend other modifications for educator certification.”

And here’s the key part, especially in the eyes of the Washington Education Association:

-“Revenue: Not addressed.”


Redefining basic education: 11th-hour deal is close…

In tomorrow’s paper:

In an 11th-hour push, education advocates in Olympia are calling on lawmakers and the governor to update the decades-old rule that spells out what the state should pay for in public schools.
“We’ve studied this long enough,” said state school superintendent Randy Dorn.

Dorn, along with members of the state board of education, parent teacher association and League of Education Voters, wants lawmakers to redefine “basic education.” That’s the basic learning that the state is supposed to pay for, with schools left to add extras from their local tax levies.

The definition of basic education hasn’t changed since the 1970s, he and others say. It doesn’t factor in things that have become increasingly important, like technology and school security.
“We are not a Third World country, yet we are not even paying the full cost of taking the bus” to school, said Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the state board of education.

“We’ve been leaning on, leaning on, leaning on local levies,” said Dorn. “They’re maxed out.”

House Bill 2261 would expand the definition of basic education to include things like all-day kindergarten, more early learning programs, raising the high school graduation requirement to 24 credits and adding staffers, including librarians, counselors and nurses.

The changes would almost certainly mean raising more tax dollars. An early version of the proposal came with a price tag of at least $3 billion.

Proponents argue that better education means a stronger economy and fewer social service costs later.

“This is urgent, it’s compelling, and it has to happen now,” said Tacoma parent Cheryl Jones.
Conspicuously absent from Wednesday’s chorus, however, was a major player in state politics: the teachers’ union. In an unusual public split among education advocates, the Washington Education Association has focused instead on trying to stave off major budget cuts.

“We have adults who are pointing to this bill and saying this is something good for kids,” said Rich Wood, spokesman for the union. “At the same time, we’re cutting a billion dollars from those kids and the education that they’re getting.”

Instead of more promises of money in the future, he said, lawmakers need to be finding ways

Bottom line: 7.7 percent cut in general funds

The bottom line on the public school budget set this morning is that the 2010 appropriation for Idaho’s schools was set at $1.3092 billion in general funds, down 7.7 percent from this year’s budget of $1.4185 billion. In total funds, including federal stimulus money, some of which is earmarked into certain programs like special education, the budget reflects a tiny increase of 0.4 percent.

The “Spokane Moms” remain in the game…

Last year, local young mothers went to bat in Olympia to win more state dollars for school libraries. They proved to be savvy grassroots lobbyists, and succeeded against pretty long odds.

Now, the same group is trying to put some meat on skeletal bills aimed at revamping school funding. After a year of work, a small group of advocates and lawmakers had proposed sweeping changes in how teachers are paid and evaluated and what the state pays for.

But some groups — notably the state teachers’ union — balked at the overhaul. And some lawmakers argue that a recession with a $9 billion state deficit isn’t the time to commit the state to billions of dollars in new spending.

“There is no money now,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said yesterday when asked about the plan. Yes, she said, the state needs to change what it considers basic education (and thus pays for), but she said there’s no sense in doing it now while the state’s still trying to dig its way out of a budget hole.

“I don’t believe you move forward now with putting something on the books when you don’t have any money to pay for it,” she said.

Undeterred, Spokane’s Lisa Layera Brunkan and Susan McBurney have gotten thousands of signatures in an online petition.

“With 2 million parents in the state, we can do this!!!” they wrote in a recent e-mail to supporters.

Statesman: It’s Raining Now

Our View: For Idaho schools, it’s raining now: Idaho schools face a downpour right now. And Tom Luna still wants to save for a rainy day/Idaho Statesman.

More Info: The state’s school superintendent would rather keep $114 million socked away in a savings account to protect public school funding - someday. He would rather condemn Idaho schools to historic budget cuts. He would prefer to move full steam ahead on $62 million in education cuts - including a plan to reduce school staff salaries by the equivalent of three school days, and a change in a busing reimbursement that would cost Boise schools $1.45 million.

Question: Should Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna tap the state’s large rainy day fund to prevent deep cuts in public school funding?


Early out of the gate: a bill from Driscoll

The state Senate is scheduled this morning to pass a bill, HB 1113, sponsored by local Rep. John Driscoll.

The bill is a $133 million sale of state bonds to pay for school construction projects that are already underway.

The work was already planned, but inflation and faster construction than the state expected means that the school construction fund was running out of money. The bond sale refills that pot of money.

“It would be foolish to stop projects that are halfway done,” said Driscoll.

The list, Driscoll said, include work at the Ferris, Shadle and Rogers high schools, as well as on school buildings in the Mead and Nine Mile Falls districts. All told, there are 167 projects in 67 districts.

“If school districts showed up for reimbursement and we said `Sorry,’ that would give another shock to the economy, a shock we don’t need,” said Hans Dunshee, chairman of the House construction-budget committee.

Spokane Public Schools to make up snow days

Unlike last year, the district has decided to extend the school year. Be prepared for some cranky kids.






Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.

Girl, 8, Faces Battery Charges

The parents of an 8-year-old girl with special needs say their daughter was handcuffed, arrested and charged with battery after a Friday incident at Kootenai Elementary School. The family is not being identified because of the girl’s age. The girl suffers from a neurobiological disorder called Asperger syndrome, which causes her to have “episodes” of disruptiveness, according to her parents. The girl’s father admits the episodes can be alarming, but said they are not violent. Without identifying the girl or her family, Lake Pend Oreille School District Superintendent Dick Cvitanich said law enforcement officers removed a student from school Friday for spitting on and inappropriately touching two staff members/Conor Christofferson, Bonner County Bee. More here.

Question: The parents of the girl is thinking about suing the district. Did the Pend Oreille School District act appropriately?

Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.

CHS, Lakeland Schools To Shut Again

Colleague Alison Boggs is working the phones after we received and confirmed tips (from ThomG & S&S Herb) that the schools in the Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts will close again Wednesday. We’re checking out a rumor that there may be a problem with the Lake City High gym.

Snow Loads Shut CDA, Lakeland Schools

Item: Roof snow load levels close area schools: Snow-covered sidewalks, narrow streets cause concern for student safety/Brian Walker & Maureen Dolan, CDA Press

Officials in the Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland school districts decided late Monday afternoon that schools would be closed today so they could deal with heavy snow loads on school rooftops. In the Post Falls district, roofs were cleared during the winter break so no early decision to close was made. The snow load levels in the Lakeland district were approaching 30 pounds per square foot Monday afternoon. The district’s roofs have a 35-pound limit

Question: Are school officials being overly cautious or prudent in closing schools to check snow loads? Should this have been done at Coeur d’Alene and Lakeland schools during Christmas vacation?

Because You Asked …

Chatterbox: Can anyone out there confirm there is no school tomorrow in Coeur d’Alene? At least for Lake City High School? Sonny-boy texted us with that news as he’s on his way to Wallace for a basketball game. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

DFO: An e-mail was circulated throughout the Coeur d’Alene School District this afternoon, informing staffers that schools will be closed Tuesday. This will allow school officials to assess the possible threat posed by snow load on school buildings. Shinie notes that Lakeland School District already has announced that schools will be closed tomorrow, too. Also closed will be North Idaho Christian.