Tag Archives: Blakely Elementary

Parents rally to save school district’s outdoor education program

Blakely Elementary students yank ivy from Blakely Harbor Park on Wednesday
Blakely Elementary students yank ivy from Blakely Harbor Park on Wednesday

Andrea Pickett can’t remember the campfire songs she sang as a fourth-grader at her Bainbridge school’s outdoor education camp, but she has no problem recalling the lessons about nature she learned there.

“I remember how to catalog trees and understand the different chemical pHs of soils,” said Pickett, now the mother of a fourth-grader enrolled at Blakely Elementary. “Some of my most powerful memories when I was that age came from that experience.”

So, when Pickett heard last spring that the Bainbridge Island School District was cutting the three-decades-old outdoor education program, she and dozens of other parents rallied to save it.

Through various fundraising efforts, the parent-teacher organizations from Blakely, Ordway and Wilkes elementary schools raised enough money over the last seven months to revive the program, which includes annual two-night trips for fourth-graders to IslandWood and other environmental science centers.

“It’s been a phenomenal effort on the part of parents,” Blakely Principal Ric Jones said. “We’re facing some serious budget considerations, and the outdoor ed program was a considerable expense and undertaking.”

The district announced it would cut the $32,500 program last May as part of a larger effort to trim $1.5 million from its budget.

Many children had been anticipating the program for years, parents said.

“For many kids, it’s kind of a right of passage where they spend a night away from home for the first time,” said Kirsten Fitzgerald, the mother of an Ordway fourth-grader. “From a young age they start looking forward to it after hearing about from their brothers and sisters.”

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