An expansion of the commons under ongoing construction at Waldo Middle School on May 6, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

There’s a lot going on in local schools, colleges and universities. To help keep you up to speed, Salem Reporter is launching a semi-regular roundup of education-related items including new programs, resources for parents and families, and events.

To suggest an item, reach out to reporter Rachel Alexander at [email protected].

MORE SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION. The Salem-Keizer School District will be able to spend an extra $51 million on scheduled school construction projects over the next several years after earning more than expected on a bond sale over the summer.

Mike Wolfe, the district’s chief operating officer, told the district’s community bond oversight committee last week it would likely be another year before they make a plan to spend the extra money. For now, it’s sitting in a reserve account, but some of it will be used to add more work on to construction projects already scheduled. The extra money won’t change the amount taxpayers cover to pay off the bonds through property taxes.

The district is in the middle of plan to renovate nearly all of its 65 schools after local voters approved a $620 million package in the spring of 2018. The projects will add space to overcrowded schools and updated facilities like science labs and space for career and technical programs.

Major projects at North Salem and McNary high schools have been completed, as well as several middle and elementary schools. District officials recently held a virtual ribbon-cutting at Waldo Middle School, where construction crews added new classrooms and an expanded cafeteria.

Work is now underway at South Salem and McKay high schools, and construction is scheduled to begin at more than 30 district schools over the next three years. Many projects are small, focused on things like upgrading security systems, but all six district high schools, many middle schools and several elementary schools will have significant space added.

A prior bond sale in the summer of 2018 also yielded extra money, which was used to add more performing arts space at McKay and a larger auditorium at South.

PUMPKIN PATCH FUNDRAISER. The parents of Aaron Brown, a Sprague High School student who died by suicide in the fall of 2018, are hosting a pumpkin patch fundraiser to raise awareness about mental health and money for the Choose to Stay scholarship fund in Brown’s memory.

On Friday, Oct. 16 from 3-6:30 p.m., anyone can pick up a pumpkin from the parking lot at Sprague, 2373 Kuebler Blvd. The pumpkins are decorated with positive messages about mental health. Donations in exchange for the pumpkins will help fund scholarships for local high school students. More information is available on Facebook.

WOU PRESIDENT RETIRES. Rex Fuller, president of Western Oregon University, announced last week he’ll retire at the end of his current contract, which expires Sept. 30, 2021. Fuller has been the university’s president since 2015 and oversaw the university’s expansion to a small Salem campus in the Vick Building. The university will conduct a national search for his replacement, according to a news release, with details to be announced at a later date.

CHEMEKETA STAYS ONLINE. Winter quarter at Chemeketa Community College will be nearly all online, college President Jessica Howard told students and faculty on Sept. 22, with some face-to-face labs for courses that can’t easily be held virtually.

“Decisions regarding future terms will be based on what we know regarding the CV19 pandemic in our region; higher education, governmental and health authority guidance; and our student needs,” Howard wrote in an announcement.

The college began operating remotely just before spring quarter began and later announced summer and fall courses would remain online with some exceptions. Howard said the college is considering offering some face-to-face services on campus starting winter quarter with health protocols in place.

CHILD CARE SURVEY. Oregon’s Early Learning Division wants to hear from parents and caregivers about their experiences finding child care during the Covid pandemic. The results will be used to help the state understand what support child care providers need.

A survey, available in English and Spanish, is open online now through Halloween. It takes 15 minutes to fill out, and everyone completing it will receive a $20 Amazon gift card.

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.