CAMAS — Mid-June is typically a time when teachers empty out their classrooms for the summer, but on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon, Jennifer Scott and her husband lugged thousands of books into the Camas School District offices.
The books had spent the last month-plus in their garage after Scott and some colleagues in the district hosted a book drive. With nowhere else to put the books, she took them home until some room in the district offices opened up.
The books will rotate in and out of a van this summer as Scott and other volunteers run the Camas School District Summer Book MoVan, a mobile library that will operate Wednesdays around the district. The books available will be geared toward students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
“Students who don’t read over the summer can lose two to three months of reading skills,” said Scott, who works in Camas as a K-5 teacher on special assignment. “Kids who read can gain a month of skills. It wouldn’t feel right to not do something.”
The books were donated to the mobile library by families and teachers in the district. The project has been a dream of Scott and Diane Loghry, director of early learning in the district.
“It’s about eliminating the barrier of lack of access,” Loghry said. “The (Camas Public Library) has summer reading programs and is great, but it’s not always possible for kids to get there over the summer. We’re trying to get books to places families are comfortable sending their kids.”
For that reason, the library will stop at three elementary schools each Wednesday this summer, starting June 26 with a visit from 9 to 10 a.m. at Helen Baller Elementary School, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Woodburn Elementary School and from noon to 1 p.m. at Dorothy Fox Elementary School. On July 3, the van will stop from 9 to 10 a.m. at Grass Valley Elementary School, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Lacamas Lake Elementary School and from noon to 1 p.m. at Prune Hill Elementary School.
The times of the stops will remain the same each week this summer, while the locations will alternate, with trips to Helen Baller, Woodburn and Dorothy Fox one week, and Grass Valley, Lacamas Lake and Prune Hill the following week. The van will be in use every Wednesday from June 26 through Aug. 14.
“We’re not going to tell anybody they can’t have a book,” Loghry said. “Our goal is to get books in kids’ hands. Anybody can come to any location to get a book.”
Having the van stop only at elementary schools extends the program throughout the district, while being a familiar place for kids and their families. If a parent is at work, they can have a neighbor or older sibling walk their student to the school to grab a book.
“Kids walk to their schools to play all the time,” Loghry said. “We hope some kids will already be at the schools when we get there.”
Creating a sustainable summer resource
The plan for the mobile library came partly by surveying what resources were available in the district. The books were donated. The district’s van wouldn’t otherwise be in service over the summer, and the labor is primarily being handled by volunteers.
“The budget challenges we are experiencing has affects on summer intervention programs,” Loghry said. “In the past, we’ve had summer school and in-home visits for students. Those required paid staff, though.”
The Camas School District is anticipating an $8.2 million shortfall in the upcoming school year. The district formed a budget committee to weigh options. While the district will finalize a budget this summer, it looks like Camas will cut around 20 teaching positions through attrition, eliminate six central office positions and 10-15 classified staff positions, some of which will be reductions in hours or the loss of part-time positions. Those cuts could save about $4 million, and the district could then use $3.76 million from reserves to nearly make up the shortfall.
Superintendent Jeff Snell said district officials must also decide what to do about its levy. In April, the state Legislature passed a bill that lifts the cap on local school levies to $2.50 per $1,000 in assessed property value, up from the $1.50 per $1,000 legislators adopted two years ago. Snell said school officials will have to decide on the rate for the 2020 collection year.
“With the state raising the limit, there is capacity to address some of the deficit through the local levy authority approved in our 2017 election,” he said. “The board wants to be thoughtful about this, considering all school taxes and the effect of any changes.”
Regardless of budget issues in the district, Scott is hopeful the summer mobile library will continue for years in the district.
“What we came to create is something that could be sustainable even with budget challenges,” she said.
The district is working to repurpose an old van by adding some shelves inside to hold books. Scott said she’d even like to see the program expand in the future if enough families use it.
“I love the creativity of (Scott and Loghry),” Snell said. “The summer programs has always been something we had to figure out how to fund to keep serving students when they’re not with us over the summer.”
On the web
For more information, visit www.camas.wednet.edu/news/the-csd-summer-book-movan-is-rolling-to-your-neighborhood.