NASELLE - The Naselle-Grays River Valley School Board discussed the possibility of seeking grant money to provide vocational training for students on a wind farm and looked into seeking guidance in reducing staff should Naselle Youth Camp close as proposed in Gov. Christine Gregoire's budget.

Superintendent Alan Bennett said of the wind farm project idea, "We are in the preliminary phase of looking into students receiving vocational training by helping maintain and operate a proposed wind farm. The district would make no expenditure for the project, but would rather seek grant money from state, federal and private sources."

Bennett said the proposed wind farm site is on the ridge above Wallicut Farms located about five miles east of Seaview. Chris Eros of XH Industry in Chinook is doing research to determine the viability of the wind farm. Bennett said, "The blades will be about 100 feet in length and their angle can be adjusted depending upon wind conditions. It may take a year or two to gain enough information about the wind speeds so applying for grants can begin. The area has recently been logged and appears to be an excellent site for a wind farm."

XH Industry refurbishes windmills and is a green industry. "This would be an excellent opportunity for our kids to be involved with a project using renewable energy," Bennett explained. "The cost would be about $9.5 million, but would bring in $20 million in revenue over the next 20 years. Chris Eros is looking into working with Ocean Beach School District as well as ours and the project, besides being a good learning experience for kids, could be a source of revenue."

The board also considered the possibility of seeking professional guidance concerning reducing staff in the event Naselle Youth Camp closes its doors at the end of the year. About one-third of the teaching and support staff in the Naselle district are employed at the Youth Camp School. "The state and federal laws on reducing staff are unclear in some areas and if we are so unfortunate as to see the Youth Camp close we will have to make drastic reductions. We may need to seek outside legal advice so that if worse comes to worse and the district has to lay people off, we will do it fairly and legally," Bennett related. May 15 is the deadline for school districts to make staffing decisions for the next school year.

Bennett and Jane Drechnowicz of NYC testified last Monday in Olympia in front of the Health and Human Services Appropriation Committee. "The hearing room was full to overflowing so they also used an adjoining hearing room and the audience seemed attentive," Bennett said of the testimony he and Drechnowicz gave in favor of keeping Naselle Youth Camp open because of the excellent service it provides and because of the "drastic" economic impact its closing would have in Pacific County.

The board also considered how to deal with a $41,352 cut in funds because levy-equalization has been taken away by the state. I-728, which helps reduce class sizes, may also lead to further budget cuts of as much as $31,147. "We will likely have a series of meetings sometime in March or April to see what our staff and the community see as programs that are necessary and what programs may have to be scaled back," Bennett said. "We won't have any meetings until the legislature makes its final determination on levy-equalization and I-728 funding."  

The facilities committee's Five-Year Plan was "put on hold" according to Bennett because of the uncertainty of what will happen with Naselle Youth Camp. "Regular maintenance will be ongoing and fortunately our facilities are in excellent condition for our students."

Athletic Director Brian Macy reported that 31 boys and 16 girls are playing basketball at the high school level and that there are 16 girls and 19 boys out for basketball at the middle school level. There are 164 students in grades 7-12 at Naselle, and 82 are playing basketball, exactly half of the student body.

The boys' team is currently tied for first and the girls' Pacific 2B League standings are unavailable. District IV Tournament play is scheduled Feb. 16 through Feb. 28 and the top five teams from the Pacific qualify for district and four teams move on to the state tournament.

Last Fall Macy said 31 boys played high school football for the Comets who finished third in the state playoffs, their highest finish since the playoffs began. He said 24 girls played volleyball and the team qualified for district and nine boys and two girls were on the state-bound cross country team and the Comets boys were state academic champions for the second straight year. Middle school volleyball had 15 girls out and middle school football had 16 boys on the team that was undefeated and league champions. Three boys and two girls participated in middle school cross country. There were also five cheerleaders. A total of 97 students participated in fall sports, or 59 percent of the student body.

Mike Shirley was named to the Associated Press All-State Football team at center and is also among the top 100 college prospects in Washington. Macy said Spring Sports begin practice March 2.

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