The weather needs to check the calendar – September is not supposed to have three days of 100-degrees-plus weather, as are the temperatures predicted for Friday through Sunday. The weather is just going with The Twilight Zone – anything can happen.

Good News – Friday night is the SCC movie classic night. You can sit in the cool theater and see a great Alfred Hitchcock thriller. This is one of Hitchcock’s movies dealing with espionage. An added bonus for the movie will be Stillwater resident Meredith Woodriff’s comments about espionage work.

After Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce declared an emergency starting last Friday through Sept. 20, the SCC Board met and decided to strongly encourage those attending to wear a facemask. Some masks will be available for those who have not brought a mask. The Board is also encouraging distance seating.

See you at 7 p.m. Friday night at the SCC movie.

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This pandemic is definitely making it difficult for so many organizations that have group gatherings. Most local book lovers were excited about the coming Friends of the Library Book Sale scheduled this weekend for the Expo Center. Unfortunately, the Friends had to cancel the sale due to the pandemic. Some smaller sales are being planned at the library. Let us hope by spring a regular sale can take place again.

Any book collector and/or avid reader loves those sales. It is an opportunity to buy great books at such bargains even though you still have the books you bought at the last sale waiting to be read. I probably have enough cookbooks now to start a small cookbook library although I probably have not looked at many of them.

Many volunteers are involved also in making these sales such a success. I have no idea the number of people involved in such a four-day sale, but I do know that Saundra Mace and Olen Thomas have second careers as volunteers working year round on the sales.

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Stillwater School District news – Perhaps you read the story in the News Press about the two meetings the Stillwater School District scheduled to discuss configuration of grade levels. I attended one at the junior high a week ago. Another one is scheduled for tonight at Stillwater Middle School.

Various school committees have been discussing grade configuration for several years starting in 2014. This configuration and the possibility of a Ninth Grade Center were topics at the meeting.

This is actually a difficult topic as it has many questions at different grade levels. Also entering into this discussion is cost, future planning and other possible facilities.

August and September are busy times for parents with school children. They are involved in back-to-school activities and meetings plus the pandemic is always hovering over any event or discussion now.

The School Board’s timeline is too hurried considering it is trying to explain a complicated subject. The two meetings – listed at one hour each – are only days before a scheduled vote on reconfiguration at the regular school board Sept. 14 meeting. The Stillwater Board plans to vote on whether to reconfigure the grades starting no earlier than 2027. This plan would involve building a Ninth Grade Center to alleviate crowded elementary schools. They cannot predict now though whether they will still need another elementary.

Allow me now to digress to 1990 when I became a school board member. Dr. Bill Hodges was the superintendent. Jim Ramsey was Assistant Superintendent for Operations. Ray Hickey was Director of Finance. Two other administrators who were involved in decision-making were Deputy Supt. Mickey Bannister and Asst. Supt. for Federal Programs Deborah Reed.

Looking back at those times, their method of operation seems simple now but it worked. They had a ten-year facilities plan they updated every five years. Cost was always uppermost in their minds. I remember someone joking one time that Ray Hickey figured the cost of every pencil used in the district.

They specialized in remodeling and renovating schools to get a few more years of use. The best examples of that belief in getting the maximum use were the district’s remodeled Will Rogers, Westwood and Highland Park. Many longtime residents will remember those schools were built in the ’50s based upon California Style.

Humorously, that building plan was straight out of The Twlilight Zone of the ’50s because this was not California. The classrooms opened to the outside which was not the best plan during the winter months.

Included in their long-range planning were demographic reports presented by Steve Tweedie, an OSU Geography Professor. Those reports were necessary for future predictions.

Bond issues were promoted to the maximum degree. An attractive brochure was printed explaining all of the projects. Hodges and his team visited every club in town to promote the bond issues. I remember bond issues passing by 86%. The administration never left anything to chance when it came to passage.

The only bond issue that was defeated while Hodges was superintendent was one for Richmond School. The voters thought it was not large enough. When the bond amount was increased, the bond issue passed a second time.

Now, let us return to the current plans.

It appears premature to be voting on any configuration plan because there are two important parts of that decision making that have not been completed. The last long-range planning committee report adopted by the Board was in May of 2016 when the Board adopted a plan for the next five years.

The current Long-Range Planning Committee has not presented a five-year plan for the next five years to the board.

With a 10- year plan with five-year updates, the district makes an assessment of the needs for facilities whether they are new facilities, current ones needing updating or remodeling or some schools needing possible additions. These assessments are done on the basis of Needs of the district. They are not based upon the Desires of the district. A demographic report is a necessity to have for projecting into the future as to when possible facilities may be needed.

An example of Needs versus Desires – Let us use the Board Building as an example. Some committee members might say, “That board building is not attractive. We want a new one.” The board building might not be attractive but it serves the purpose for which it is intended. A new one is not needed.

Without a current demographic study, the district might be able to say that a Ninth Grade Center would take care of any crowded elementary schools but without projected figures for future years, the district does not know whether three years from now another elementary might be needed.

The Board cannot be making a smart decision when they do not have all the information. A new demographic study has been ordered so perhaps they will have that information soon. With that information, the long-term facilities review committee can make a better assessment of actual future needs of the district for new facilities.

Also – School committees may have studied this issue for years, but the parents of school children and interested community members have not had time to learn about these issues. It cannot be done in two hours before a board meeting scheduled a few days later.

The Stillwater School District preempted Nashville. Back to the country music world next week.

Maybe a countdown to October will make it seem cooler in The Twilight Zone.

Julie Couch is a longtime Stillwater resident.

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