AP NEWS

Westfield School District reaches out to community with adult classes

February 27, 2019

WESTFIELD — There’s a second helping of lessons available to the adults in the Westfield School District.

The same sausage-making course the district offered this winter returns in the spring as leadership also explores community outreach in candy-making, scrapbooking, snacks and appetizers, fitness, small-engine repair and personal technology.

“We’re trying to zero in on what the public wants from its schools,” said District Administrator Bob Meicher, who expects the district to eventually offer three or four outreach classes per year. “This community has been so good to us, and this is our way of giving back to them.”

The sausage-making class is led by school board member and sausage expert Oscar Miller. It costs $75 per person for materials and kicks off for the second time March 27. Registration for 12 spots in the class ends March 20, Miller said.

Sausage-making lessons started in January and were offered on four nights to eight participants who, by the end of the course, gained skills they could use for a lifetime and took home more than a dozen pounds of meat, said Meicher, a former principal at Portage’s Bartels Middle School.

Miller has made his own sausage since 1988, when he ran a meat business out of his home in Coloma for two years. Participants of his class learned the history of sausage-making, delving into the different spices, cures and nitrates people have used for many years. They learned techniques and safety measures, too, including how to properly handle and choose meat.

“The big picture is we want people in our building,” Miller said. “We might also offer a lawnmower tuneup class in the spring, and then maybe a tuneup class for snowblowers in the fall. We want to offer them skills in areas they don’t need a Ph.D. for.”

School board member Mark McCartney said Westfield’s outreach classes would remain budget-neutral for the school district, as long as they find more leaders like Miller.

“What’s great is the sausage-making is something he’s passionate about, so he donates his time for it,” McCartney said. “Bigger metro areas might offer these kinds of classes, but they’re not easily found around here. We want to give our residents the same kind of opportunities.”

Previously planned outreach classes in woodworking and floral design did not gain enough community interest to be offered this winter, but the district expects to survey the community to determine what other outreach classes it should offer, leaders said.

“Tell us your interests,” McCartney said. “We’ll try to get something for you.”

Outreach classes supplement the “Silver Sneakers” fitness class in the school that’s offered by a local business owner for senior citizens, McCartney and Miller noted. The school district also opens its doors to walkers in the early morning so they won’t need to exercise in the cold weather.

“Even though our building is 20-some years old, it’s nice that our residents are getting to see that it’s well-kept, it’s organized and not being beaten up or not maintained,” Miller said. “It allows them to see what their tax dollars have been spent on.”

For more information or to register for Miller’s sausage-making class, call the school district at 608-296-2107.