News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Back to School: Santiam students return to new facilities, classes

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

Santiam Canyon School District schools got off to a great start last week!

“It feels great to start off with some sense of normalcy, where we can really focus on the work that improves teaching, learning and student programs,” said Todd Miller, SCSD superintendent. “We are really digging back into the basics of quality, not having to respond to all the changes we have endured in recent years.”

Miller said the district’s COVID response has relaxed, easing the burden of students, families and staff, while also keeping practices in place to limit spread within schools and keep the community safe.     

“We want kids to regain the school activities and opportunities they had before that have been sorely miss and impactful to our students,” he said.

Educators needed the summer to recharge, especially after the last few years, Miller added.

“With that said, summer also makes us miss the kids,” he said. “It is an exciting time, it is an anxious time, and it is that wonderful time of fresh starts. There is an excitement, maybe not for the alarm clocks, but to see our kids and make a positive change with them.”

Four schools fall into SCSD jurisdiction: Santiam Elementary, serving students in grades K-5; Santiam Junior/Senior High, serving students in grades 6-12; Santiam Canyon Preschool, a free program serving students eligible for kindergarten the next school year; and Oregon Charter Academy, an online charger school serving students in grades K-12 statewide.

Good news for parents, the district was approved by the state Department of Education for its Community Eligibility Provision program, providing all students free lunch and breakfast on school days. 

“We are offering free half-day preschool to kids within our community who are eligible for kindergarten next school year,” Miller said. “We are so excited to get to offer this service to our community.”

Santiam Elementary has set up a model program where all students get grade level standards-based instruction, while also getting support at their level for both reading and math instruction, Miller said. 

“This system of whole group and small group instruction helps meet the varied needs of all our students,” he said. “We are also proud of the growth of our career technical programs. We offer a Culinary and Hospitality program that sets students up with life skills and job opportunities in the areas of cooking, restaurant management or the hospitality industry. 

“We have an amazing culinary classroom for kids to learn in, and we were fortunate to get a grant to purchase a food cart for the students to learn additional skills in this growing sector,” he added. 

Also offered is a Health Occupations career technical program introducing a variety of jobs and training, including one that allows students to finish high school with their pharmaceutical technician license, Miller said. 

“And lastly, our Industrial Arts program continues to expand with construction, metals, welding, automotive and now advancing into computer software designed manufacturing,” he said. “All these programs offer practical hands-on learning for life and for excellent job opportunities.”

According to Miller, elementary students receive both physical education and music instruction daily. 

“This early exposure to music is also contributing to our growing music program at the middle and high school level, where kids can learn skills for a variety of instruments, vocals and even music production,” he said. “And for those who like to rock, we have a class called ‘School of Rock’ to keep music on the fun side.”

Campus improvements continue, and Miller said new facilities “allow us to offer more classes, fit our instructional needs better, and provide more comfort and an excellent learning environment. It feels really good to have a campus our community can be proud of and that serves our students well.”

The district is also adding a new social emotional curriculum for all middle school students that will be co-taught by counseling and administrative staff. 

“It is an exciting year and one that I have been looking forward to,” he said. “We have an excellent staff and are offering the best programming options and supports I have seen in my time at Santiam. With all the work and improvements we have made in the last few years, this year is shaping up to be our best yet. It is going to be a great year!”

Information on courses, athletics and other school-year matters can be found on the district website at www.santiam.k12.or.us or on Facebook. 

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