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District breaks ground on newest elementary school

Campus in the booming North Bethany area will help relieve overcrowded schools

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton School District students pose for a photo with Charli Hagseth at the construction site of a new elementary school on Tuesday.Many of the hillsides that surround a new elementary school site north of Bethany are still carpeted in green and fringed with trees.

But sharpen the gaze and the yellowish tints of freshly cut lumber come into focus.

Those buildings rising on the surrounding ridges will soon cover most of the hills and be home to the students that, beginning in 2017, will fill the hallways and classrooms at the Beaverton School District's newest elementary school on Northwest Kaiser Road.

The school itself also will start rising from those same hills.

On Tuesday, school officials along with local dignitaries and several parents and children were bused to the site from a nearby church for a ceremonial groundbreaking on the district’s 34th elementary school, which is designed to bring some relief to overcrowded schools north of Sunset Highway.

The actual ground already had been broken after Skanska USA started site work this spring in order to complete the project in a little more than one year.

Several school officials thanked voters who passed a $680 million bond measure in 2014, which is paying for this new school among many other projects across the district. The elementary school budget is up to $38 million.

“It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes all of us to raise a school building,” Paula Radich, the district’s interim superintendent, told the crowd huddled under a canopy on a blustery late spring day.

The North Bethany campus, which has not officially been named, is the first of four scheduled elementary school buildings across the district that will use a prototype design from DLR Group.

“What a wonderful site to build a school,” said architect Scott Rose, a principal with DLR and an alumni of Aloha High School.

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.

In fact, the aging Vose campus will be leveled this summer and another school looking much like the North Bethany building will rise simultaneously in that established neighborhood, albeit on much flatter land. (Vose students will spend a year attending classes at a future middle school in the Timberland neighborhood, where another Skanska project is wrapping up.)

Charli Hagseth, the new school’s principal, is spending the coming school year planning programs at the campus, slated to be the district’s first “STEAM” elementary school with a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“There’s a lot of different things that need to be in place,” said Hagseth, the longtime Oak Hills principal. She added that her most important job will be hiring the “absolute best and brightest staff.” Several teachers on her planning team also attended the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I really love the layout. It looks really neat,” said Daniel Choi, looking at the architectural renderings on display at the ceremony.

Choi’s son attends Oak Hills and will be in middle school by the time the new school opens — and likely would have lived too far away to go to a school in North Bethany anyway.

The district plans to set new elementary boundary areas that will take effect when the new school opens in 2017. The process will determine not just which students attend the new school, but will also redraw the lines for several existing elementary schools.

The new school’s student body is likely to be drawn from current and future housing developments that today would send students to schools at the far northern end of the district, especially Findley, Jacob Wismer, Bonny Slope and Springville, Hagseth said. Those campuses are bursting at the seams during a construction boom on the district’s north end.