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McLoughlin middle-schoolers do their part for Weed

Many middle-schoolers made light work of cleaning up west Medford Friday morning as part of a McLoughlin Middle School effort to raise money for the restoration of Weed Elementary School, which was damaged by the Boles fire in Weed, Calif.

More than 800 McLoughlin students, accompanied by their teachers and other school staff, picked up litter around their school Friday and, in just 35 minutes, gathered about 40 semi-filled bags of trash.

“We found mostly wrappers, cigarette butts and some soda cans,” said Alex Villa, an eighth-grade leadership student.

Local businesses, along with parents, sponsored the cleanup event and have donated more than $2,000 so far, said McLoughlin Middle School Principal Linda White.

While White looked for sponsors, the leadership team followed the events happening in Weed and raised awareness around the school.

“We made posters and hung them around the school,” Villa said. “There were pictures of people mourning over their homes. The posters said, ‘What if this happened to you?’ ”

The team also made a video featuring news coverage of the 489-acre fire and informing students of how they could help.

On Friday morning, McLoughlin students donned gloves and hit the streets in groups. Every class was assigned about two blocks.

“We've got about five cigarette butts,” said Reece Schoenfeld, 12, looking into the black trash bag.

Schoenfeld held the bag while his friend Josh Nelson, 12, and his other classmates in Mr. Brunner’s math class ran around picking up smashed soda cans and quite a few Otter Pop wrappers.

Both boys were aware of what was happening in Weed and were proud to play a role in the relief effort.

“We’re helping the kids who lost their school and their churches and their homes,” Nelson said.

About 250 students who attend Weed Elementary School were evacuated in a hurry when the fire swept through the area on Monday, Sept. 15.

The school lost several pieces of playground equipment, as well as its music room, including all its instruments and sheet music, said Kathi Emerson, superintendent of the Weed Union Elementary School District.

There also was so much smoke and water damage done to the primary wing of the school that 90 students weren't allowed back into four of the classrooms to retrieve their backpacks. When those students returned to school Tuesday, they were given donated school supplies, Emerson said.

Although the school hasn't finished inventorying its losses, it was insured, Emerson said.

The school has been forwarding some of the monetary donations coming in to the families of the 30 elementary students who lost their homes, she added.

McLoughlin Middle School is still accepting donations. Email White at linda.white@medford.k12.or.us for details on how to donate.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Josh Nelson, 12, left, and Reece Schoenfeld, 12, pick up trash near McLoughlin Middle School Friday morning in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore