Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Chris Collins


Superintendent Walt Wegener is preparing for an influx of youngsters born when he was hired to lead the Baker School District about three years ago.

He says about 150 babies were born at the Baker City hospital that first year.

"With student counts going the way they are, we need to begin having a very serious conversation," he told the Baker School Board Tuesday night.

The board agreed with Wegener's plan to form a task force to begin studying the issue. The superintendent said he hopes to have changes in place when classes start next fall to accommodate about 25 more students expected at Brooklyn Primary School.

Wegener says he would recommend moving kindergartners from a wing at Baker High School to Brooklyn. The kindergartners have been housed in classrooms at the northwest corner of BHS for the past four years. That move happened North Baker Elementary School was closed and the district reorganized to grade-level buildings.

Moving the kindergartners back to Brooklyn would result in other moves, as well, Wegener said. Third-graders, who now attend Brooklyn, would move to South Baker Intermediate School, and sixth-graders would move from South Baker to Baker Middle School.

To accommodate that shift, half of the middle school's eighth-graders would attend classes at Baker High School in the mornings and half would move to BHS for afternoon classes.

In addition to district administrators, the task force would include a couple of board members and community members, Wegener said.

"There are a lot of things to discuss and consider," he said. "It appropriately needs to be done with the input of the community. Families need to be engaged."

In other business, Wegener outlined the procedure for filling two vacant board seats should district patrons vote to recall directors Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson. The Baker County Clerk's Office will mail ballots out today for the Dec. 11 election.

Wegener said three attorneys have advised him that the remaining directors would be required to vote unanimously to fill the vacancies.

The process would begin with a 20-day period to seek volunteers for the positions. Next, the three board members would provide a "pre-orientation" for potential directors and then conduct interviews before voting to select the new directors.

If the recall succeeds and the three who would remain - directors Andrew Bryan, Kyle Knight and Jim Longwell - could not reach an agreement, Wegener said he would seek further guidance from the Oregon Department of Education.

The board has been split 3-2 on many issues since Burroughs, Henderson and Bryan voted last spring to censure Knight for releasing what they said was confidential information to the media. Since he was censured, Knight has not been allowed to serve on certain committees and his access to certain district information and district staff has been restricted.

For the first 40 minutes of Tuesday's two-hour meeting, the board heard presentations honoring Baker Middle School student of the month, James AhHee; community volunteer Heidi Dalton, who has used her artistic talents at the Eagle Cap innovative high school to create an inviting study lounge for students in the former North Baker School building; and Nanette Lehman, Haines second-grade teacher, who has been named Oregon Teacher of the Year.

In responding to the recognition of her honor Tuesday night, Lehman thanked district administrators and board members for the support and encouragement they provide to all district staff.

"This award is all of you I have the pleasure of working with and for," she said. "I will be traveling across the state and across the nation and I will shout from the rooftops that I am a part of Baker 5J."