After stolen yurts upended its expansion plans, a Salem school gets some unexpected good news

Kaleidoscope Community School Director Molly Brown (left) and Ashley Acers, the school’s owner, stand outside of a yurt assembled at the school. The school had ordered four yurts to help it expand. But thieves had other plans. (Jake Thomas/Salem Reporter)

Kaleidoscope Community School is still missing the coverings for the yurts it had planned to use as classrooms for its growing student body in southeast Salem.

But the school on Wednesday got some unexpected good news.

Kaleidoscope, which has about 40 kids ranging in ages from 6 to 9, ordered four yurts last year from Mongolia to accommodate more kids. In January, the contractor assembling the yurts, insulated tents long used in central Asia, had a trailer stolen overnight. That trailer contained three sets of coverings for the yurts.

News of the school’s plight spread and reached the ears of a group of incarcerated people at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Wanting to help out, they raised $2,200 to replace the yurt coverings.

“I was like, ‘are you serious?’” said Molly Brown, the school’s director, who received a call from the Department of Corrections on Wednesday about the donations. “I was just blown away.”

Department spokeswoman Stephanie Lane said in an email that the money was raised through members of six different groups in the Oregon State Penitentiary. They include the 7th Step, which seeks to help rehabilitate prisoners; Narcotics Anonymous; Uhuru, an African American cultural group; the Athletic Club; the Lifers, in addition to a group of prisoners involved with the annual car show.

Money for clubs in the Oregon State Penitentiary can come from fundraisers as well as donations from individual prisoners and the community, department spokeswoman Jennifer Black said in an email. The money likely did not come from income earned from prison jobs, she said.

An employee with the department dropped off the check Thursday afternoon to the school, said Brown. Teachers have broken into tears at the news, she said.

With community donations and other funds, the school has $8,000, enough money to order one replacement covering from Mongolia, she said.

The school, which is currently open for parents of essential workers, set up one yurt before the theft. It now plans to have a yurt constructed by mid-March for its 15 kindergartners, she said.

Brown said the students haven’t been informed about the donations yet, but teachers are hoping to use it as an opportunity to teach them about community. The school is also thinking of some way to thank the prisoners, she said.

In the meantime, she said that the students have learned one lesson.

“They learned a lot about patience because they’ve been waiting for the yurts for months,” she said.

  Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

WE GET SALEM THE FACTS. Covering your community with care and depth. Salem Reporter – fair, accurate, independent. Subscribe and support our essential local service.