Schools that educate students from preschool to grade 12 under one roof are increasingly rare. In Iowa, you could count them on two hands. Lone Tree Community School is one of them, and …
Schools that educate students from preschool to grade 12 under one roof are increasingly rare. In Iowa, you could count them on two hands. Lone Tree Community School is one of them, and on Jan. 18, it had the full attention of U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks.
The morning began with attention on student Caden Smith, who worked on the Student-Built Home project this past summer in Kalona. At the conclusion of the much-lauded project in August, the community held an open house to celebrate the work of the students and the many community and industry partners that made the home remodel at 721 6th Street possible. The student-builders were presented with hammers and tool belts by Hills Bank and KCTC, but Smith was unable to attend the event due to athletic practice.
Lone Tree Superintendent Kurt MJ DeVore wanted Smith to have the recognition he deserved, so he reached out to Rep. Miller-Meeks for help. She obliged, and on Wednesday she, along with Gorden Viers, chairperson of the Iowa City Home Builders Association Parade of Homes, presented Smith with a bucket of tools like those he used on the job site, a special Stiletto hammer, and a tool belt.
“One of the things we’re very much trying to do in Congress is let people know you don’t have to go to a four-year college to have a wonderful career that’s very fulfilling and rewarding,” Rep. Miller-Meeks remarked after the tool presentation on the front lawn of the school.
Smith, before heading back to class, told The News that his experience working on the Student-Built Home was a good one.
“I think the whole garage part was a lot of fun. That whole aspect of actually being able to build something from scratch was good,” he said. “I got to learn how to build basically a little mini house.”
“I really liked the people I worked with,” he added. “It was a good time.”
Smith said he expects to pursue a career in the trades when he finishes school. His most immediate plans include working for Allen Homes, a custom home builder, in Iowa City this summer.
After the tool presentation, students Lila Bell and Mitchell Koedam took Rep. Miller-Meeks on a tour of the school as she had requested as part of her visit. She engaged them both in conversation about the instruments they played in band and their plans for college as they navigated between classrooms.
At most classrooms, Rep. Miller-Meeks poked her head in the door and introduced herself to the teacher and students.
She learned about the school’s beekeeping program, which began with three hives and now hosts 58,000 bees and produces about 80 pounds of honey. “One of the doctors I worked with at the university kept bees and had an apiary, so it’s one of my bucket list items,” she said while admiring the equipment.
Inside the library, Rep. Miller-Meeks remarked, “I grew up in the library,” citing her mom’s work in the children’s library at one of the bases her military dad was stationed on. “People ask me, what’s my hobby? And that would be reading,” she said.
Introduced to the government class, which was learning about the Space Race, Rep. Miller-Meeks asked the students, “If you had an opportunity to go up in space, how many of you would do it?” After a pause for hands, she said, “I would do it in a heartbeat. There are people who want to send me into outer space,” she added, eliciting laughs.
At the conclusion of her tour, Bell and Koedam presented Rep. Miller-Meeks with a plaque that included her laser-engraved likeness alongside the school’s logo, a wood platter, and two containers of Lone Tree Ag Education honey.
Rep. Miller-Meeks appeared to be impressed by Lone Tree Community School and its hospitality.
“It’s phenomenal to be in a small school district,” she said. “To see the amount of things that are offered to these students, which really opens up the world for them in any career path, be it in higher education or be it in a vocation or a trade. I think it’s a phenomenal example of what you can do in a small school district when your attention is to the students, to their learning, and to their growth.”
Gathering up the gifts she was given, she said they were “totally unexpected,” adding that, “My office has things from all the counties, so I’m going to put it in the office.”
As Rep. Miller-Meeks departed for Kalona, where she would learn about its growth and take a driving tour of the Southtown development, Superintendent DeVore told The News how important her visit was for the school.
“That’s a big opportunity for a district the size of Lone Tree, for her to be able to come and see what opportunities are offered for students at Lone Tree Community School,” he said. “The district does a lot for our kids and provides some great pathways either to college, four-year or two-year, or right into a vocation or into the trades, like we saw with Caden. So, it’s great.”
“It was important to have the kids lead that tour because it’s their building,” DeVore continued. “This isn’t about the adults. It’s not about me. It’s about the kids, and Caden, and all the special things that happen for kids at Lone Tree.”
“It’s every student, every day here,” he said. “We really live and breathe that.”