Sat., Oct. 23, 2021
It’s just one night under the stars – minus camping amenities – but the view pays off. For about 14 years each fall, Wes Nicholas has spent a nocturnal shift sleeping on the roof of the school where he’s principal.
His climb is part of a tradition to encourage Asotin Elementary School students in their annual fundraiser. Earlier that day, Nicholas sat for a haircut by the student who raised the most in the school’s “fund run.”
And after his rooftop stay, Nicholas has an unusual alarm clock: Asotin’s students yell for him to wake up when they arrive for classes.
“I stay up on the roof at night with a sleeping bag and tent,” said Nicholas, about his haircut-rooftop tradition at the school, which is about 2 miles from Clarkston. “It’s usually mid-October each year.”
The haircuts always prove interesting and give kids a fun start to the day, he said. The student who uses the clippers doesn’t just do a buzz cut. Some get creative.
“Usually, they don’t just shave it,” said Nicholas a few days before this month’s cut. “They’ll cut patches out or do different things. Last year, we didn’t do it because of COVID.
“The boy who’s cutting it this time cut it last time. He just cut the top, so it was bald at the top in a circle. I know one time the student did it like a checkerboard.”
This year, it all happened Oct. 14 after students and families raised $65,000 to benefit school programs through its Parent-Teacher Organization. Nicholas lauds that accomplishment for a school of 300 students.
“I’m just amazed and impressed by the support this year – $65,000 – that’s huge to think that 300 kids bring in $65,000 with all of that money going back into the school. It allows us to do some extra things.
“It’s for the PTO and supports school activities, buys playground equipment, helps pay for field trips or a special assembly, and it supports the Missoula Children’s Theatre, which comes most years for a performance.”
Nicholas, 53, came up with the idea of a rooftop stay and haircut incentive when he previously worked in Medical Lake more than 16 years ago. He offered a similar challenge to students early in his career.
“I think the kids get into it,” he said. “The kids and parents see that all of it goes to the school and the benefits it has. We had a fund run on Friday (Oct. 8) and we all went out and ran, depending on the grade level. The younger kids don’t run as far.
“The students ask for pledges toward that run. It doesn’t matter if the student goes five laps. That doesn’t get more than someone who does just two laps.”
Now, Nicholas’ own kids are grown, so just his wife has to deal with the new haircut and his night away.
“When the student cuts my hair, it’s after we meet outside and we do the flag salute in the morning; that’s how the day starts for me, with a haircut,” he said.
“It’s just me on the roof. I’m usually there when the students leave school, and then in the morning, they wake me up by yelling and telling me to get up. Then I start the day, just working.”
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