BONNER - David Chastain wanted to be a better football player.

So naturally, he signed up for dance class.

The seventh-grader just moved with his family from Oregon, but he wanted to enroll in dance when he saw the offering on the elective slate at Bonner School.

"Actually, it helps you catch the ball," said Chastain, the only boy in a class filled with 15 girls at Bonner. "If you memorize the movements, you do it while you're running."

Bonner School, building off its reputation as a school that has unique elective offerings for its middle-school students, has added dance, environmental science and German to its courses this year.

Yes, Bonner. More than 350 students live here in a town famously known for its now-shuttered lumber mill and plywood plant.

Environmental science?

Yes, where students learn about the natural resource industry and conservation.

And dance?

"I was wanting to learn how to dance," said seventh-grader Nancy Stebbins. "I saw everyone else doing it and I thought it might be fun."

At a time when schools are tightening their belts to keep from shrinking, Bonner School is bent on expanding the alternatives for middle-school students - from foreign languages to arts.

"Quite honestly, our school superintendent is masterful in running the budget," said Bonner Principal Ashley Parks. "There's always money for students. If we need new textbooks, we get textbooks. If we need new computers, we get new computers."


And the district got new course offerings this year.

Dance, yes. Environmental science, yes. Publications. Full-year choir and band. And German.

German is now the second language offered in Bonner, which has also added Spanish and advanced Spanish over the last two years.

German teacher Saul Steuer, who is working quarter-time, said the language makes sense for the community.

"It is different, but because it's different it's interesting for a lot of students as well," said the University of Montana graduate who used to teach in Potomac. "Here's sort of a natural interest in it as well, because of the German heritage in Montana and around Bonner."

Cary Markin recently took some time off from teaching to deliver her first child.

The UM education graduate saw a posting over the summer for a dance and drama instructor in Bonner.

It was a job that made perfect sense, but she could hardly believe what was in store for her.

"It's cool that they have the money," said Markin. "I walked in and (Superintendent Doug Ardiana) is showing me all these facilities. I said, ‘I have my own

classroom?' "

Dance, German and environmental science were all chosen as new electives in Bonner after a survey last year of students, asking them what new courses they would like to see at their school.

Outside of state and district requirements, students and parents still have a lot of control over what their schools are and what they emphasize.

Parks likes it that way.

"For us," said the second-year principal, "student needs and student interests are very important."

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at


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