Parent meeting set Wednesday to discuss transition plan for students

Beaverton School District officials have announced that Terra Nova High School will be closing at the end of this school year.

Letters were sent out to parents Jan. 25 to inform them of a meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 16550 S.W. Merlo Road, to discuss plans for the 2012-13 school year.

"After careful consideration and program evaluation, the district has decided to close Terra Nova High School at the end of the current academic year," wrote Principal Mary Jean Katz. "The farm will continue to operate and be available for student internships, school field trips and community shares.

"At the meeting on Feb. 1, we will discuss our plans for helping your child transition to another Beaverton School District high school."

Terra Nova High School began as a Northwest Regional Education Service District program.

"When it appeared that the program was going to be eliminated in the spring of 2009, the Beaverton School District stepped in so the program could continue," said Carl Mead, deputy superintendent of Beaverton's department of teaching and learning. "The district has attempted to maintain the Big Picture philosophy for the past three years.

"Over the past year, district administrators have made numerous visits to observe the program and evaluate student work. The Big Picture Model (as we are delivering it) of student-designed and directed project-based learning throughout a student's four-year high school experience is not in alignment with our district, state and national work around standards-based learning. The current program does not address the district goal of preparing all students to be college and career ready."

A critical component of the model is a required student internship in a focus area chosen by the student, he added. However, less than 50 percent of the option school's students are reportedly participating in an internship. Officials are also concerned that student work does not reflect the high quality expected at the high school level.

There are currently 46 students enrolled in the program with seven students scheduled to graduate this June. Enrollment numbers have continued to decline: 2009-10 (58 students), 2010-11 (47 students), and 2011-12 (46 students).

"Like any school, Terra Nova deserves full-time administrative and support staff, which is not feasible given the size of the program," Mead told board members on Monday. "Currently, administrative staff is shared between Merlo Station High School and Terra Nova.

"This is a concern because of the distance between the schools and the inability to address issues immediately, in particular student safety. For the remainder of this school year, a campus monitor from another high school will be transferred to the Terra Nova campus to provide additional supervision. Unfortunately, we cannot afford what this program deserves and what the Big Picture Model requires."

As an example, he cited the model calls for a one-teacher to 15-student ratio. The district currently staffs all high schools, including options high schools, at 1 to 26. The district staffing allocation provides for only two teachers at Terra Nova. This year, a part-time teacher was added to provide math and science instruction. The funds to support this teacher came from Merlo Station High School's staffing allocation.

"We are required by law to have highly qualified teachers in all core content areas (math, science, language arts, social studies," Mead reported. "Our current staffing allocation model will not allow us to meet this requirement next year.

"We are also limited in the electives that we are able to offer students: no foreign language, PE or other electives."

In the months ahead, a transition plan for each student will be collaboratively developed with students, families, counselors and teachers.

Terra Nova staff was notified about the closure at a staff meeting on Jan. 25.

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