A wealth of education for Ready Springs’ students | TheUnion.com

A wealth of education for Ready Springs’ students

Near a stand of stately oaks behind the Ready Springs School campus, a group of students armed with digital cameras is staging a school’s transformation.

The evolution of the 309-student campus continues across the blacktop, where middle-school students sand and smooth tables they hope to use as work stations for future shop projects.

It’s a sight that until last week was unseen at the Penn Valley elementary school, where a group of teachers and parents have parlayed $40,000 in donations – some of which were anonymous and some of which came from service clubs and Citizens Bank of Nevada County – into an enrichment program for students committed to the dual goals of high achievement and community service.

The Promoting Academics, Community and Exploration program – known as PACE – is the latest pitch by Ready Springs’ educators to expand course offerings for middle schoolers and boost sagging enrollment for the campus.

The PACE elective program allows students in the sixth through eighth grades who have filled out a resume and maintained a 2.0 grade point average the chance to take either photography or woodworking classes three days a week, in addition to their normal course load. By next year, instructors hope to expand electives to include culinary arts, robotics, theater arts and landscaping.

Students are expected to sell the wooden tables and digital photographs they produce to the community, with profits returning to finance the program in future years.

The way some of the instructors see it, this program is a necessary addition for a school that must compete with larger Nevada County middle schools that have greater fiscal and instructional resources.

“We’ve sat back every year and waited for budget cuts to come,” said instructor Mike Pettengill, who teaches a woodworking elective in addition to language arts classes. “We weren’t going to do that this time. We want to make this exciting for the students that are here and for future ones.”

After just two weeks, the program is winning raves from students.

Gabby Carcamo, a 12-year-old sixth-grader, was inspired by her father to enroll in the photography class.

“Taking pictures is like opening a new window and letting fresh air in,” she said, snapping photos of wildflowers in a stand of oak trees on school grounds. “It’s a new world to me.”

Instructor Shannon Perry, a mother of three students at Ready Springs, explained the dynamics of shutter speed and aperture width to a group holding digital cameras.

“This is all about students developing a passion for something in their lives,” she said.

Students in Pettengill’s woodworking class say they enjoy working in teams and producing work they can actually see.

“We actually wait all day long for this class,” said sixth-grader Kody WInthal, helping to attach legs to a newly made work bench.

The changes at Ready Springs have come relatively quickly since principal Susan Pastorini replaced former superintendent/principal Merrill Grant in August. The school this fall received $10,000 to initiate its first-ever music curriculum, and the PACE program, which was supposed to begin next fall, took off after donations were received more quickly than expected.

In addition, Perry helped create Ready Springs School’s new Web site, which was launched recently.

It’s hoped that financial and academic support for the school continues.

“We aren’t looking at this as a one-shot deal,” Superintendent Jim Voss said. “We’re looking at ways to encourage people to make Ready Springs their school of choice.”

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