Thumbs up to Mid-Columbia students

Thumbs up to Mid-Columbia students for increasing their science scores on state tests last year.

We're not sure what exactly accounts for the dramatic improvements, but no doubt better teaching methods and the determination of students to do well played significant roles.

At the Columbia School District in Burbank, more than 73 percent of eighth-graders passed their science test, 30 percent more than the previous year.

Less dramatic but significant increases were recorded at most Mid-Columbia school districts, and the gains reached into math and reading as well.

New testing standards are partly responsible for the rising numbers, but a lot of hard work by teachers and students are clearly evident in the scores.


Thumbs up to pulling together

Thumbs up to the partnership between Washington State University Tri-Cities, EnergySolutions and NuVision Engineering that's fulfilling today's needs while paving the way for a better future.

The partnership recently opened the $3 million Energy-Solutions Engineering Laboratory, which initially will be used to continue tests on mixing systems for the Department of Energy's Hanford vitrification plant to resolve technical issues.

Under a novel agreement, EnergySolutions donated the facility to WSU Tri-Cities, which will lease it back for a nominal fee through June 2013 and then likely longer at market rates.

When that work is completed, the laboratory will be available for use by the university's growing engineering program.

It's just the latest development in a long string of projects and programs that have been made possible at WSU Tri-Cities because of community support.

It's gratifying to see how willing people here are to ensure the school's success. We face a brighter future because of it.

Thumbs down: All the way home

Thumbs down to school bus drivers who fail in their fundamental duty to safely deliver every child to and from school.

Our hats are off to the vast majority of drivers who fulfill this trust without a hitch and under trying circumstances. They treat our children as if they were their own, and we suspect most of them think of their charges exactly that way.

But any exception to the rule is unacceptable, and we've seen several in the Mid-Columbia in recent years. This year, kindergartners in Kennewick and Richland were left at the wrong location. Luckily, neither child was harmed.

Safeguards seem to be in place. In Richland, bus drivers are supposed to contact parents if a student's drop-off location isn't clear or the parents aren't there.

Every driver needs to follow protocols as if a child's life depended on it.

Thumbs down: Unhappy campers

Thumbs down to circumstances that led the Army Corps of Engineers for closing popular Mid-Columbia campgrounds for the season while so many campers look for ways to enjoy the outdoors.

Gates closed at many of the corps' recreation facilities after Labor Day, including Hood, Charbonneau and Fishhook parks' campgrounds.

Anyone who has spent a year or two in the Mid-Columbia knows that we have at least another month of great camping weather ahead of us.

The blame shouldn't really fall on the corps. The agency has to live within its budget, and maintaining the locks and dams, providing fish passage and other responsibilities rightly take precedence.

But the public's access to outdoor recreation is an essential service -- especially in the Northwest, where time spent exploring our abundant natural wonders is a birthright.

We all lose whenever that access is diminished.