Dealing With War In Local Schools

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Operation Iraqi Freedom has spilled over into many aspects of our lives, including the classrooms of the Rim country's schools.

And while there are probably as many ways to deal with the subject as there are educators, one consensus that seems to have emerged is that the war shouldn't overshadow the educational process.

At Payson High School, teachers are fitting the war into a regular morning time slot when current events are incorporated into the curriculum.

"We have Channel 1, which is a really good 12-minute educational news program that all our students watch every morning," PHS Principal Phil Gille said. "What I've observed in classes is that kids will ask their teacher questions afterward and there will be a short discussion on (the war)."

The program, "kind of a teen-aged CNN," helps students take an interest in current events.

"We have some kids who are mature and are interested in current events, but it's not a natural thing for kids to be interested in current events," he said. "So the show is a good thing."

Otherwise, the PHS curriculum offers little opportunity to bring up the subject.

"The war isn't part of any curriculum because we don't have current events or anything it would fit into," Gille said.

At Rim Country Middle School, the war is being talked about in classrooms, but students aren't consumed by it.

"The kids have not displayed any anxiety so far," RCMS Principal Frank Larby said. "I haven't heard of a lot of worry."

While Larby has provided his teachers with an Internet-based list of ways to send e-mail, electronic thank-you cards and care packages to American troops, he doesn't think the war should be dwelled on in the classroom.

"This is the age of television," Payson Elementary School Principal Roy Sandoval said. "They're going home and they're bombarded with the war all afternoon and evening. They've had enough of that. What we need to do at school is focus their direction on academics and provide consistency. (We can't) stop everything and do a big school thing on the war, (because) they're already inundated."

At Julia Randall Elementary School, Principal Ardyth Potter has instructed her teachers not to avoid the subject.

"My direction is to let the children talk and answer their questions," Potter said. "They're going to be curious, but you don't have to exaggerate. Watching (a war on television) is really scary, and they do have a lot of questions. (Teachers) just need to answer those questions as honestly as they know how."

Some teachers have undertaken specific projects related to the war, most involving writing letters to American troops. At RCMS, for example, sixth-grade special education teacher Nancy Bruner's students are writing to the nephew of counselor Jan Bartoli, who is stationed at an air base in Kuwait.

At PES, third-grade teacher Laurie Pfarr has organized a drive to support Operation Baby Wipes, a project that originated in the Valley. Students bring in items American troops need but don't have access to (like baby wipes, "a coveted item in a dusty place with no showers") and they are shipped to the troops overseas.

One of the more elaborate projects is unfolding in JRE second-grade teacher Roxanne Savage's classroom. The fiancé of parent volunteer Christine Burba's daughter is in a light-armored tank battalion on a top-secret reconnaissance mission.

"My kids are writing to the battalion, and we're putting together a bulletin board with pictures they sent before they went on the mission," Savage said. "We just got our first letter back and read it to the kids yesterday."

Savage's class just completed a unit during which students made their own globes.

"It worked out very well because for these little kids, in their minds' eye, Iraq is as far away as Phoenix," she said. "This gives them a perspective."

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