On May 31, District 9 faculty member, David Sweems had just returned from escorting 8th grade science honor students on a memorable field trip. Sweems’s gifted Shady Cove Middle Schoolers had raised funds to visit Harris Beach in Brookings.
Following that outing, Sweems would accompany spouse, Michelle, and their three daughters to a bittersweet tribute held in honor of a beloved building. The picturesque white structure off Highway 62, Trail, that has housed Elk Trail School for decades will figuratively shutter its doors on June 8.
Sweems grinned at the tiny headshot of himself as an Elk Trail student in the school handbook displayed among mementos from the late ‘70’s. “I studied here in grades 1 through 4,” he said. “Then attended Shady Cove School from grades 5 through 8. Graduated Eagle Point HS in 1985. Got my teaching degree at SOSC in 1990. I came back to teach in Little Butte School, while also coaching football at EPHS. In 2002, I started teaching science and computers at S.C. Middle School. ”
All three of his daughters began their schooling at Elk Trail. Just completing 2nd grade, Callie’s still currently enrolled. Kristin attends S.C. Middle School, and eldest, Kiana, expects to complete her freshman year at EPHS this month.
An apparently tireless David Sweems joined other men grilling hotdogs to treat a crowd estimated at 500 community members during the May 31 event. He stated he prefers small schools, which he deems “best for the kids.” Yet, he can understand the economic rationale for “doing what they have to do.”(Closing a school populated by fewer than a hundred students.)
Michelle Sweems considers Elk Trail’s closing unfortunate. “It’s such a beautiful place,” she said, “a great education.”
Third grader, Matthew McPheeters and first grader, Rich Snell, posed no objections to attending a different school, since they’d likely have the same teachers there.
As for the future of the structure, Steven Lecroy of EP Head Start, furnished optimistic answers. Lecroy distributed flyers announcing the impending expansion of his agency to one end of the E.T. School building. For qualified persons, he even held out hopes of employment possibilities with Head Start.
Principal Tiffanie Lambert said that next year she’ll become Principal and Special Ed. Teacher of Shady Cove School, which will house grades K-8. “Elk Trail is an amazing school,” Lambert observed. “But it’s not a building; it’s people.”
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent