School forest committees gaining momentum
By Sarah Nigbor
RIVER FALLS – River Falls High School senior Olivia Redmond is the latest recipient of the school board’s Wildcat Pride Award, which they presented to her Monday, Dec. 21.
Redmond developed and implemented a free, basic needs clothing store in the school counseling department.
“Olivia truly cares about her others and wants to make a positive impact in the lives of her fellow classmates,” Board Treasurer Todd Schultz said. “Olivia’s focus is on creating a space that is well-organized, welcoming and normalizes reaching out for resources.”
The store, called Wiley’s Wardrobe, defines its mission as providing a safe, welcome environment offering clothing, snacks, school supplies and personal care items to RFHS students in need, no questions asked. Hours are 7:20 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Those wishing to donate can do so at the RFHS counseling office. The store is in need of new or gently used men’s pants, men’s sweatshirts, women’s sweatshirts, hats, and gloves, as well as snacks such as oatmeal, mac and cheese cups, granola bars, or fruit cups, Redmond said.
Her future goals include expanding services to Meyer Middle School and Renaissance Academy, operating as a student-run organization with a student representative from each grade, and establishing multiple funding sources. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a career in social work.
The hardest part, Redmond said, is spreading the word. She encouraged board members to check out the website, Facebook and Instagram pages. Redmond, along with school social worker Jacqueline Graham and counselor Logan Moe, has developed partnerships with Assisted Resource Center, UW-River Falls and Our Neighbors’ Place.
“Her commitment to social justice in her own community inspires those around her,” Schultz concluded.
Learn more at https://wileyswardrobe. webador.com School forest
The board heard updates from River Falls School Forest committee members on their recent activities.
Science teacher Nate Brown, a member of the School Forest Curriculum Committee, said the group is leaning heavily toward a K-12 educational program from UW-Stevens Point called Leaf with Forestry. The group is also working with the Trails Committee to develop trails that are accessible for all students. Their next step is sending out a staff survey in January.
District physical therapist Mikayla Sanocki of the Trail, Maps & Signage Committee said her group is currently surveying existing trails at the forest property. With help from City Forester Mike Noreen, the group has received a $1,500 grant for trail clearing. By Spring, a group from the New Richmond correctional facility will help clear trails. One main goal is creating an interpretive trail, accessing the prairie area.
Rick Wilson of the Facilities Committee said their main focus is an educational structure. UW-Stevens Point connected the group to eight school forests with structures, which vary widely. In early 2022, the group will visit school forests in Cumberland and Menomonie. One committee member planned to visit the school forest in Rhinelander over the holidays. A goal this spring is to provide two portable bathrooms at the forest site.
Barb Kolpin of the Land Management Committee and her team are reviewing the school forest easement, taking inventory of existing trees and developing a management plan. They are also taking stock of invasives. The prairie is not as big as it was in 1939, but there is an oak stand in the northern part, she said. Garlic mustard has been found on the access road, so the group will work to remove invasives to avoid them tracking elsewhere.
To learn more, visit www.rfsd.k12.wi.us/community/ rfsd-school-forest.cfm Other business
•The board approved the resignation of Ellen Puff as full-time English-Language Arts teacher at River Falls High School effective Dec. 17, 2021; the resignation of Alyson Niehans as full-time Social Studies teacher at River Falls High School effective Jan. 14, 2022; and the hiring of the following short term, on call substitute teachers: Rhonda Klink, Gabriel Nord, Forrester Smith, Matthew Shoemaker, Brady Klatt, Andrea Uetz, Erin Bitter and Maxwell Haskins.
•The board approved Teacher Professional Compensation Plan revisions and new Kids Club job descriptions for coordinator, high school helper, lead teacher, assistant teacher and site manager.
•The board approved the second reading of revised School Board Policy 461 – Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship.
•The board voted to use the Wisconsin Association of School Boards tool to complete a board self-evaluation. The last evaluation took place on March 15, 2021.
River Falls School District
Photo courtesy of River Falls School Forest Facilities Committee