MARSING — Marsing this week celebrated the opening of its first community school, an old middle school that’s been renovated into what’s now called The HUB, a center that brings together resources for students and families in one place.

A lack of resources for Marsing families has begun to bleed into the lives of students and schools, district Superintendent Norm Stewart told a group of residents who gathered Thursday for The HUB’s ribbon-cutting. The Owyhee County city of about 1,100 people recently saw its food pantry and senior center close, and there’s no pharmacy, Stewart said.

The Hub will serve as a preschool for students in the Head Start program and the Husky Pup Preschool. It will also have other school and family resources.

“If you are looking for some of the resources that our families seek, you have to travel to other communities,” Stewart said, adding that the closest community is Homedale. “It may only be 10 miles away, but if you are talking about a family that is struggling to put food on the table, how can they put fuel in their tank for a 20-mile round trip?”

The HUB will consist of an adult learning classroom, a food and clothing pantry, preschool classrooms, a health center, Owyhee County Sheriff’s Office substation and the office of the district’s migrant liaison.

The HUB layout

The layout of The HUB, Marsing's new community school that recently opened in the former middle school building. 

During the ribbon-cutting event, families and some teachers toured the building, walking into the two preschool classrooms and the food and clothing bank.

The idea to begin work on the community school began after Marsing School District voters passed a $13.5 million bond in 2017 for a new middle school. The new middle school opened up the building that now serves as the community school.

The HUB emerged from a partnership between the school district, United Way of Treasure Valley Community Schools Coalition, the Idaho Foodbank, the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children and others.

Stewart said the partners met in November to discuss how they could address community needs and came up with the idea for the community school.

The preschools were established with a $61,440 grant sponsored by the Community Collaborative Preschool by Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. The grant paid for supplies and staffing. Stewart could not provide the full cost breakdown of The HUB renovation by print time.

Christa Rowland, director of community impact for United Way, said the organization introduced the strategy of community schools to the Treasure Valley in 2014, and since then over 20 community schools have been established in the valley.

“When students are struggling with mental health or hunger, it is going to be difficult for them to be successful and focus in the classroom,” Rowland said during the ribbon cutting. “When students have extended-type learning opportunities, they are more successful.”

Stewart said about 63% to 68% of the district’s 853 students qualify for free and reduced-price meals at school.

“(The lack of resources) create barriers for our families, which in turn, create barriers for our kids, because if our kids are worried about food insecurities or other issues that are going on at home, then they can’t focus on what we are trying to teach in the classrooms,” Stewart said. “So what this facility is, is to try to knock down barriers that our families are seeing and help our students focus on the jobs at hand.”

The district has been providing breakfast, lunches and sometimes dinners to their students for several years. The Husky Pup and Head Start preschools began for students on Jan. 27. The Husky Pup preschool is for students ages 4 and 5 and costs $400 per month for full time preschool and $300 per month for part time preschool. Families interested in enrolling in the preschool can find a form on the district website, marsingschools.org, and call the district office at 208-649-5411.

Rachel Spacek is the Latino Affairs and Canyon County reporter for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at rspacek@idahopress.com. Follow her on twitter @RachelSpacek.

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