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District begins adjusting elementary school boundaries

COURTESY OF THE BEAVERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT - The district broke ground on the building's construction in June; as of this month, floors have been poured in and steel has gone up.

With the Beaverton School District’s high school boundary changes finally settled, the district is now moving forward with its next task — adjusting elementary school boundaries in order to make room for a new K-5 school that will open its doors next year.

The as-yet-unnamed elementary school at 7775 N.W. Kaiser Road in the North Bethany area is one of seven new buildings — three of them new schools and four rebuilds — outlined in the $680 million school bond package approved by voters in 2014. The district broke ground on the building’s construction in June; as of this month, floors have been poured and steel beams have begun to go up.

The district’s 34th elementary school — billed as its first elementary STEAM school, focusing on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics — will open at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The coming boundary changes will affect two schools only: Springville K-8 and Jacob Wismer Elementary School.

This month, a committee of six parents — three each from Springville and Jacob Wismer — began a series of public meetings to shape attendance boundaries for the new school, Springville and Jacob Wismer. During the process, the committee will analyze walkability, proximity, safety, transportation routes and growth projections. The committee will meet twice in November before wrapping up deliberations.

Population growth expected

One of the main functions of the new school is to relieve overcrowding at Springville K-8, the closest existing school. Even with Springville’s middle schoolers temporarily housed at a new middle school building in the Timberland area this year, the school’s enrollment is still far over capacity.

“We’ve grown at a rate that is difficult for us to keep up with. Our lunches and recesses are extremely full. Mornings and end-of-the-day pickups can be challenging,” said Jennifer Vandershuere, assistant principal at Springville, at an Oct. 20 planning meeting.

Springville’s elementary school capacity alone is 790, including portables. This year, 944 students are enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade. The school is at 119 percent of its capacity, Vandershuere said, adding that the school would need to add 10 classrooms to adjust capacity according to enrollment numbers.

Some students at the new K-5 school will also move over from Jacob Wismer, the second closest school. With room for 749 students, when portables are included, and 702 students enrolled, Jacob Wismer is at 94 percent capacity, though growth is expected to place pressure on that number.

The new school, which will open with 33 classrooms, has the capacity to house 750 students, but planners are aiming to open the school with approximately 500 students during its first year.

The construction of the new school at the northern end of the district was precipitated by existing and projected growth in the Bethany area. A number of developers have signed off on properties in the area and an influx of new families are expected in coming years.

Students in the neighborhoods zoned for the three schools live in Westview High School and Sunset High School’s attendance areas. Overcrowding at those two schools is one reason why the district is also opening a new high school in the South Cooper Mountain area next year.

The elementary school boundary committee spent a recent meeting discussing different boundary scenarios, trying to weigh capacity numbers with the somewhat unpredictable factor of projected neighborhood growth during the 2017-18 school year and beyond.

Initial plans called for both schools to send approximately 250 students each to the new school, with the remainder of students coming from new developments as they grow. But as the boundary planning process moves forward, it isn’t clear if that projected division will remain in place.

Some parents from the Jacob Wismer attendance area expressed reservations about their school being included in the boundary change process at all, saying that the school’s current enrollment is well within the buioding’s capacity and that they want neighborhood unity to remain intact.

Others said Springville shouldn’t bear the brunt of all changes.

“We all need to share the pain,” said one parent.

The committee is set to continue discussions at meetings in November. At a Dec. 12 board meeting, the superintendent is expected to make a final recommendation.

Preparing for a new school

From Chromebooks for personalized instruction to arts-integrated, inquiry-based learning, the new school is being envisioned as a 21st-century space designed to help students become globally competitive.

“It’s a different way of delivering instruction, where students will be provided more hands-on education and integrated activities,” said Charli Hagseth, the new school’s planning principal. Hagseth previously served as principal at Oak Hills Elementary.

Hagseth is working with a planning team to build community partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits, with the goal of expanding opportunities for students. This summer, five team members attended the Right Brain Institute symposium at the Portland Art Museum to better understand how to integrate arts into the curriculum.

“My teachers walked away so very excited to be able to bring that to students,” said Hagseth at the meeting.

The school will open with 33 classrooms — three of which are dedicated for special education programs — as well as a full-size gym, library, technology center and maker-space room. There will be several flex classrooms for small group work, robotics and STEAM activities.

It will be the first of four scheduled elementary school buildings across the district that will use a prototype design from DLR Group. The planned rebuilds of Vose, Hazeldale and William Walker elementary schools will use the same basic design, with tweaks to each building to give it local character.

The new school building contains specific infrastructure elements to allow it to potentially serve as a community shelter during a natural disaster, including an upsize emergency generator, solar panels and photo-electric system to power if there was an outage.

Transition activities for new students will include open houses, art projects, and voting on the school mascot and colors.

“Once we know where are boundaries are, I’ll be out knocking on doors, introducing myself to families,” said Hagseth.