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The Ophir School Newspaper is a joint production of Outlaw Partners and the aspiring Middle-School Journalists of Ophir School, who are self-assigning the content and reporting and photographing the stories you see here. The Ophir School Newspaper will appear on two pages of the Big Sky Weekly and on throughout the school year. – Barbara Rowley, Ophir School Newspaper advisor

Upping the ante

Students weigh in on proposed changes to graduation requirements
By Elizabeth Quackenbush
Members of the Big Sky community came together for three forums in January to hear ideas from the school district and get input on the name change of the Ophir School District, and the possible change of credits for graduating seniors of Lone Peak High School.

“I have had many people come to me and present the idea of changing the school district name,” Superintendent Jerry House said. “Right now there are two different Big Skies. One is the Missoula High School called Big Sky High and the other is our community.”

“With this name change, how do we keep ourselves unique from Missoula?” parent Diane Bartzick asked.

“It is easy. When you say Big Sky, people think Big Sky Resort,” House said.

No one at the first meeting disagreed with changing the school district’s name.

The next topic was the possibility of changing graduation requirements from a minimum of 22 to 27. It also would require that graduates take four credits each of English, Science, Mathematics and Social Studies.

These changes would make our graduation much more rigorous than the state requires. School board member Barbara Rowley pointed out they would also better prepare our students for college and life.

Currently, the 22 credits required for graduation are:
4 units – English
3 units – Science
3 units – Mathematics
3 units – Social studies (Montana Studies, US History incorporate into IB II and US Government)
1 unit – World Language
1 unit – Fine Arts
1 unit – HE (one semester in ninth grade, one in 10th)
1 unit – Technology/Career Education
5 units – of elected courses in any subject area.

At the forums, House also explained a new Capstone project element of graduation he is proposing. This would be a preset program that ends with a senior project to reflect the path a student has been following.

“The Capstone project is something that can help you reach your goal,” House said. “You start as a ninth grader and work on it until you are a senior.”

The high school students have varying opinions about the changes.
“I know that we have a very low number of credits, and I think that raising them a little higher in electives is a good idea,” sophomore Anna Middleton said. “But I don’t like that they are changing the bigger credit areas. I need to know how to plan my future. I need to know how I am going to plan my credits out.”

Freshman Micah Robin doesn’t think the school should require more credits.

“We have already planned out our schedules to get all the credits we need,” Robin said. “I think LPHS should do what most schools do. For example, Bozeman High School requires 23 credits as their minimum requirement and 25 credits beyond as an honors diploma. Any credit minimum higher than 23 and 25 would be ridiculous.”

Although the credit requirement would change for Robin, the proposed plan keeps credit requirements as they are for current sophomores, juniors and seniors.

A decision about the proposed changes is scheduled for the next school board meeting at 5:30 on Feb. 22 in the library.

Fun in fundraising

By Kate Middleton, Photo by KP Hoffmann

The eighth grade class is well on its way to its fundraising goal of $13,000 for its spring trip to Washington, D.C.

“We’ve already paid for our airline tickets,” said Mrs. Bruener, eighth grade advisor. “So now we are raising money to pay off the rest by the first week of April.”

The eighth graders have been having fun and making money for their trip at the same time. They’ve waited tables at Tips for Trips, held a Ski for DC ski-athon and made and sold boot stationary for sale.

“Tips for trips works,” said eighth grader Soby Merlino, “so does raising money in the summer.”

Meghan Farhat, another eighth grader, agrees. “It helps to always make goals for yourself when it comes to helping.”

Many people wonder if families have to contribute money as well. But the eighth graders say that this will only happen if they don’t reach their goal.

The eighth graders are looking forward to many things in D.C., including going to the Holocaust museum, Merlino said.

Mrs. Bruener says this is especially interesting to the students because they’ve been studying genocide in language arts and in social studies. The students also look forward to the National Gallery because they prepare for their visit for two months with community volunteer Sharon Holtzman.

“We do art, learn art history and appreciation and become experts on an artist and a painting that we’ll see there,” Mrs. Bruener said. “Also students get to meet other students from all over the country.”
To other kids who will soon be raising money for their own eighth grade trip, Mrs. Bruener has this advice: “Its great for kids because students work for their money. The best thing is for efforts to start early.”

Local kid opportunities

Apply now for a fun summer
By Carter Johnsen, Photo by KP Hoffmann
It’s only February, but it is not too late to start making summer plans.

In fact, now is actually the time to make plans with three organizations handing out scholarships—each giving special preference to local kids. Kid for the Wild, Women In Action and Yellowstone Club Community Foundation have more than $6,000 to give to local kids looking for new and fun experiences this summer. With deadlines rapidly approaching it is a good idea to apply now.

Two, $750 Kid for the Wild scholarships are awarded annually. The scholarships are used for outdoor experiences, and are given out in remembrance of local legend Walkin’ Jim Stoltz, who traveled around the continent on foot, playing brilliant music and lobbying to save the environment. Since Jim lived and worked in Montana for most of his life, preference is given to Montana children from ages 12-17, although anyone can apply. This award is not based on need.

“His passion was connecting young children with wild places,” said Jim’s longtime wife, Leslie Stoltz. Applications are due on Feb. 15.

The Yellowstone Club Community Foundation scholarship was created in 2011 in remembrance of David Mueller, A.K.A “Big Bald Dave.” The David Mueller Outdoor Experience Scholarship is meant to help kids attend outdoor camps or programs. The scholarship is given to one child between the ages of 12-18 and funds to $5,000 of a summer experience of his or her choice. Applications are due on Feb. 17. Applications will only be accepted through the Internet. This scholarship is not based on need.

Finally, Women In Action is a nonprofit organization that was founded to help working class families obtain better opportunities in healthcare and education. WIA has contributed many scholarships to camps in past years; last year it awarded more than 30 grants to Big Sky kids. These scholarships have no published cut-off date. They’re designed for those who need financial assistance with a top income cut-off of $65,000.

For more information about these scholarship opportunities, or to apply, visit the following websites:

  • Ceramic Art: Anyone can do it!

    By Abigail Hogan
    Do you like to get down and dirty? Do you like to express yourself through art? If so, you can join one of Jill Zeidler’s pottery classes.

    At her new pottery painting classes, Zeidler provides the mug, bowl or plate and you get to paint it.

    I was lucky enough to go to one of Zeidler’s weekly pottery painting classes recently and make my own mug. She’s also offering after school programs at the school on Fridays timed around different holidays. The pottery painting is new this year, and really fun!

    Zeidler started college with a major in painting, but switched to pottery when she fell in love with it during her first class. After that she finished college with a degree in ceramics. Zeidler has been in Big Sky for 13 years and has been teaching pottery classes in Big Sky since 2001. She built her own art studio in Big Sky six years ago.
    Gourd bowls, a style of very large bowls made from slabs of clay, are Zeidler’s favorite to make.

    Zeidler focuses on teaching kids. She teaches the Kids Club at the mountain on Wednesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Her after school programs for painting holiday themed pottery start in mid-February, on Fridays, when ski Fridays are over. This class is for grades first through sixth. Zeidler offers group events like Girl Scouts, and has a camp coming up this summer. She can even come straight to your house and do a birthday or other type party for painting mugs, plates, platters and bowls, or you can go to her studio classes, to create your own clay masterpiece or learn to throw on the wheel.

    For more information or to sign up, contact Jill Zeidler at (406)-599-1390 or

    The Outlaw Partners is a creative marketing, media and events company based in Big Sky, Montana.

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