Toward a more refreshing OASIS

OASIS students Zach, Isaiah and Avery (from left) pose near the Art Tree display at OASIS School, one of the ways school leaders are developing a more positive environment for students. Thursday’s garage sale will raise funds for a new water fountain and playground for its students.Residents have an opportunity to help students in Marion County who need the most and have the least.

The OASIS School, operated by the Marion County Special Education Coopera­tive, will host a garage sale from noon to 7 p.m. Friday to raise money to purchase a new water fountain and raise funds for a playground that OASIS students can call their own.

“We’re accepting anybody’s donations for the garage sale,” said Laura Baldwin, OASIS principal. “The fund will go toward the water fountain, and we’re also hoping to complete a playground.”

An acronym for Oppor­tunity, Achievement & Success In Society, “OASIS” serves students who struggle to fit into a traditional classroom.

“We serve all the Marion County schools,” Baldwin said. “We work with students who need more structure and behavioral and skill training. They come to us.

“We have great support from all five school districts,” she added. “They have been really great to work with.

“We’re really trying to make OASIS into a much more positive environment, where it’s a great place to go to school and change the image a little bit from what OASIS has been in the past—not a punishment, but just a different placement.”

New water fountain

Fundraiser organizers want a water fountain that also fills water bottles.

‘The Marion Police Department donated water bottles to all our students last year,” said Joy Dalke, an OASIS paraprofessional. “We have a water fountain, and it works most of the time. But sometimes it’s a little temperamental and doesn’t want to spout water.”

Perhaps even more important, the existing water fountain is located an inconvenient distance from OASIS classrooms, which requires staff to supervise each student who wants to refill his or her water bottle.

“We’d like (the fountain) in the hallway where there’s easy access so it doesn’t take as long, and it’s not such a big ordeal to go down to the water fountain,” Dalke said. “The kids complain about having to fill (their bottles) in the sink, even though we do. And they really like the water cold.”

Access to bottled water is more than a luxury for OASIS students.

“It is something that a lot of school districts are going to because of the thing about water and hydrating the brain, and how that helps you attend and focus, and helps you learn better,” Baldwin said. “It goes back to our kids needing that.”

Playground benefits

OASIS students could benefit greatly from having its own playground area.

“Marion Elementary has been really good about sharing theirs with us, but it’s just hard to organize and schedule it when they’re not out there,” Baldwin said.

Having a playground means more than providing “fun time” for students.

“One of the things we know is that kids need movement, no matter the age,” Baldwin said. “We don’t have a place right now where kids can get out and play and move. Our kids also need higher supervision.”

To make the playground more affordable, Patty Putter, MCSEC board clerk, has been recruiting help from welding classes at the five school districts.

“We have several school districts whose shops are building different pieces of equipment for us,” she said.

For example, Centre has agreed to make parallel bars and a vault. Shop students at Hillsboro are making two balance beams and a “gate” to climb on. Marion has signed on to build a swing set, a basketball goal and parallel “monkey” bars.

Putter also has pursued donations from business to keep the project affordable.

“Mark Meyer (ag teacher at Marion) works for Hills­boro Industries during the summer and holidays,” Putter said. “He contacted (co-owner) Mike Gerken and asked whether they’d be willing to donate materials or money. They gave us a check for $656 to pay for the product that Marion is making for us.”

The planning group said people who know how to work with concrete would be more then welcomed to donate their skills to help pour a small basketball court, or help install “some kind of border” that could preserve an appropriate depth of ground cover as required by the state.

“Research shows that kids that move can attend better and focus better at school,” Baldwin said. “When we talk about our student population and their needs—social, emotional, physical and instructional—it all goes together.

“The piece that has really been missing when I came here was the movement piece. Our kids needs movement probably more than most students who are in a regular education setting.”

Outside funding

Baldwin said OASIS opted for outside funding sources for the fountain and playground projects because otherwise the money would have to come from program funding itself.

“Our budget for our whole school is about $12,000,” she said. “We’re talking about everything from office supplies, to teacher classrooms, to curriculum, to special events, to staff motivation—to everything every other school has.

“That blows most people’s minds.”

Baldwin said MCSEC funds are barely enough to cover the essentials OASIS requires.

“Our needs are pretty dramatic because these kids are often the kids that are minimalized because they don’t fit the mold,” she said.

“People will say you only have 25 or 30 kids—but I have the 25 to 30 kids who couldn’t make it in those other classrooms,” she said. “We work with the kids who are the most challenging kids with the goal of returning them to traditional classrooms.”

Baldwin said she and her team want OASIS to the most positive place it can be.

“For some of our kids, it is the most positive place they have in their lives,” she added. “They’re still kids. They may be troubled kids, but that increases our obligation. It doesn’t negate their value.”

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