Community briefs

Memorial Day at Tahoma National Cemetery

Tahoma National Cemetery will have a Memorial Day Program starting at noon on May 26, located at 18600 S.E. 240th St. in Kent. This year’s program will include a flyover by the U.S. Navy and Bellevue Community Band music led by conductor Phillip Donley.

The featured speakers will be Lindee Lenox, director of Memorial Programs Services, Washington, D.C., and Captain Thomas Mascolo, commander of the U.S. Naval Station in Everett.

For more information, call Tahoma National Cemetery at (425) 413-9614.

Council gives $16k toward Farmer’s Market plan

The City Council unanimously gave $16,000 from its beautification fund to help pay for the permit fees needed to host a trial Farmer’s Market in the Town Center this summer.

IslandVision, the group of Islanders advocating the outdoor public market, needed about $11,000 to obtain city permits required for such events. The permits are needed for each of the planned 10 market dates and are slightly more than $1,000 each. The fees pay for the staff time needed to plan and operate outdoor events, such as the annual Rotary Run.

Callie Ridolfi, of IslandVision, also asked for an additional $5,000 to fund promotion for the event.

“We want to have some high-quality signage,” she said. “It will also help us pay for tables, canopies and banners.”

So far, IslandVision has received interest from several vendors, from flowers to farm goods. It plans to have four flower vendors, about 20 mixed varieties of vegetables, fruits, produce and some beef from a local ranch. Other booths will serve prepared foods such as pizza, dim sum and pad Thai. Two organic gourmet cheese vendors have applied as well. IslandVision is also in contact with seafood and honey vendors.

Construction planned for section of S.E. 40th Street

Puget Sound Energy work crews are expected to begin work along S.E. 40th between Island Crest Way and 86th Avenue next week. The utility company will be relocating power poles in preparation for the city’s S.E. 40th improvement project scheduled for later this summer.

The work to be done by PSE, starting May 27, will continue intermittently until the end of July while several utilities install new 90-foot poles, string new high-voltage transmission lines and transfer low-voltage communication lines along the north side of 40th from Island Crest Way to 86th Avenue S.E.

While PSE transfers the high-voltage lines, only local, preauthorized traffic and escorted pedestrians will be allowed on this section of 40th. According to city officials, there will be no access to 40th from 85th Avenue S.E. PSE’s work is expected to be completed within 10 business days; however, once completed, Comcast, Qwest and other utilities will begin additional work. Street access will remain restricted during those times as well.

Construction will also impact the Metro bus stop at 85th and 40th. Please visit for the most current rider information.

This summer, the city will also begin a project that will install one new traffic signal and replace another. The project will also re-stripe the intersection of 40th and Island Crest Way and lengthen turn lanes. A new traffic light will be installed at 86th and 40th. Work is expected to begin in July or August.

North Mercer Gym closed for renovation

The North Mercer Gym closed last week for summer renovation and is scheduled to reopen in September. The remodel was approved earlier this year as part of the Mercer Island School District’s 2008 Capital Facilities levy.

More than $500,000 will go toward improving the decades-old gym. Work will include painting the main gym’s walls, resurfacing the roof, installing new bleachers and improving disability access. The adjacent locker room will also be revamped with new lockers and flooring, as well as shower and plumbing improvements.

The athletic facility, located on 40th Street next to Youth Theatre Northwest, is used by Mercer Island High School athletes and community residents.

“It is a very high-usage facility,” School Board member John DeVleming told the Reporter earlier this year. “Every day after school, the gym is being used for hours.”

The North Mercer building was built in 1960. Since then, the facility has slipped through the district’s financial cracks, with the majority of levy funds going toward the high school and its adjacent sports facilities. Today, the gym and its locker room are in dire need of repair.

District staff and city officials are planning to relocate activities held at North Mercer to the Community Center. For more information, visit:

MISD open enrollment update

The district has posted a list of grade levels and academic programs currently closed for 2008-09 open enrollment on its Web site. Superintendent Gary Plano approved opening the district to off-Island students earlier this year. However, due to space restraints, the following grades are not accepting open enrollment students as of May 13: grades 6, 7 and 8; Kindergarten and grade 3; the gifted program for grades 3 through 8; all special education classes besides speech and all English Language Learner (ELL) classes. All four grade levels at Mercer Island High School are open for off-Island applicants, as well as grades 1, 2, 4 and 5. The district will continue to update this list.

Applications for open enrollment are available on the district Web site: For information, call Mary Newcomer at (206) 236-3330.

Snow day

This Friday, May 23, a “built-in snow day” on the district calendar will be scheduled as a regular class day for the Island’s elementary students due to a snow storm earlier this year. On Jan. 28, the district was closed due to snowy weather conditions. Only elementary students were scheduled to attend school that day. Middle and high school students made up the day on Nov. 9, which elementary students had off.

In order for elementary students to meet the state’s 180-day requirement, they are required to attend school this Friday.

The next built-in snow day is scheduled for June 16, the Monday after the last day of school. Unless school is canceled due to adverse weather in the next month, students will end the year on Friday, June 13.

For further information, call the superintendent’s office at 236-3300.

Ritchie receives Challenger Center honor

Island Park fifth-grade teacher Thelma Ritchie is the 2008 Challenger Center for Space Science Education Teacher of the Year recipient. The award honors teachers who perform exemplary work in space education. Ritchie is one of five recipients across the country.

In addition to her passion for science education, which she passes on to her students and fellow faculty members, Ritchie also pursues science outside the classroom. The fifth-grade teacher has published a trilogy of science fiction books about a hypothetical community on Mars: “Terra Nova: Settling The Red Planet,” “Terra Nova: Expanding Red Planet Horizons” and “Terra Nova: Taming Red Planet Frontiers.”

The teacher is also committed to the Challenger Space educational program and has brought experts, such as NASA educators and Viking research scientists, into her classroom. Because of Ritchie, every fifth-grade class on the Island has had the opportunity to fly a virtual Challenger mission over the past 10 years.

Ritchie will receive a medallion made out of aluminum from the Challenger shuttle during an awards ceremony on May 27.

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education is a nonprofit organization founded in memory of the astronauts — and first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe — who died during the 1986 flight of the Challenger Space Shuttle. Using space exploration as a theme, the center fosters a long-term interest for students in science, math and technology.

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