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Vose neighborhood says goodbye to school building

Families share memories, prepare for transition to swing school


TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Emely Hernandez, 10, an incoming fifth-grader at Vose Elementary School, is curious how going to a new school will work out while her school is rebuilt this coming school year.

At Wonderland Park, next to a series of duplexes and apartment complexes on Southwest King Boulevard, families from around the Vose neighborhood gathered together on summer afternoons.

The kids hanging from monkey bars and zipping down slides attend Vose Elementary School, a short walk away. This summer, the school is being demolished in order to make way for a new building that will be constructed over the course of the next year.

Emely Hernandez, 10, sits at a picnic table with her family, eating lunch.

Many families come to the park for a free lunch, provided by the Beaverton School District through its federally funded summer meals program.

When Emely speaks about Vose Elementary, she is almost mournful. As an incoming fifth-grader, she won’t have the chance to attend school in the new building when it opens for the 2017-18 school year.

“The trees would let us play with them,” said Emely. Two towering sequoia trees, neighborhood icons, had to be taken down as a part of the rebuild, due to city requirements.

“After knitting club, people would take the things they made and put them on the sequoias,” she added.

With the trees removed, dirt leveled, and one of two circular buildings taken down, the demolition is about three-quarters of the way done. The second building will be taken down within the next couple of weeks. TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Construction crews clean up debris and move ground in prepare for the construction of the new Vose Elementary School.

City-contracted inspectors come by every week to make sure nothing leaves the site, that dirt and pollutants don’t get into the gutters.

The school, with its two circular buildings connected by a common area, was built in 1962, and it worked for its time. But with concerns about safety, capacity, and the building’s ability to serve as a space for 21st-century learning, the district decided to rebuild the school.

During the 2016-17 school year, Emely and her classmates will attend classes at a “swing school” building, while Vose is rebuilt from the ground up. After hosting other schools for the next four years, the swing school will eventually become a new middle school.

Families prepare for transition

Emely’s mother, Teresa Vidal, was one of many parents who expressed mixed feelings about the change and how it will affect their family’s schedule.

Like most Vose students, Emely walked to and from school. Now, she’ll have to take a bus to get to the swing school near the Cedar Mill neighborhood, five miles north.

Jenny May, who brought her 6-year-old son Brodey Harrison to the park, said she was excited about the new building.

But she’s concerned about the long, later bus ride home that cuts close to dinner time. The challenges of life at a different school sometimes seem daunting.

“The change is a lot for a little one,” said May, watching as Brodey navigated a remote-control car across the lawn.

Still, she’s hopeful that things will work out. She’s encouraged that Brodey’s teachers and principals will migrate to the new school along with students.

“People had a lot of attachment to the building, and many of them have parents who went there,” said Veronica Galvan, principal at Vose.

Some of those families have lived in the Vose neighborhood for decades.

Terry Barce, who has lived across the street from the school for 38 years, watched all four of her kids go through Vose.

She shared a photograph of Vose blanketed in snow, taken last winter before demolition work began.

“They have fond memories of the school,” said Barce.

Because most Vose students have never taken the bus to school before, the district put together a video in English and Spanish explaining the “dos and don’ts” of riding the school bus.

School administrators and district teams have worked hard to ease the transition, holding community meetings to reach out to as many families as possible.

“We want to keep that school-home bond strong,” said Galvan.TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Brodey Harrison, 6, who will be in first grade this year, will have to go to a new school while Vose Elementary School is rebuilt this coming school year.

At community meetings, Barce expressed both support for the new building project as well as concern about how the new layout might affect traffic on her street.

Several families approached the district during those meetings, asking if they could keep a piece of brick from the building as a memento.

That was discouraged, said district spokespeople, because of asbestos and other safety concerns.

Remembrance honored

Under an on-site trailer, contractors kept a plastic box with things found during construction: vocabulary index cards, a Spanish picture book, a history poster dating back to the 1990s.

Contractors also stored away a dedication laid in brick, honoring the women who established the school’s kindergarten program in 1984. It’s a small piece of a larger mosaic that couldn’t be entirely salvaged. Project planners will try to preserve and incorporate the dedication into the rebuilt school.

When Martha Conde walks past the demolition site, she has to look the other way.

“We did get a little emotional when they took down the building,” said Conde. She attended Vose in the early 1990s and still lives in the neighborhood.

The social and ethnic demographics of the Vose neighborhood and Beaverton have changed over the decades.

In 1990, just before Conde started attending Vose, 3 percent of Beaverton residents and 7 percent of Vose students were Hispanic.

Conde remembers feeling like she was one of the only Hispanic kids at Vose. The language barrier was hard, so she and her brother stuck together and made friends with two girls from Guatemala.TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - The entrance of Vose Elementary School is what remains to be demolished to make way for the construction of the new elementary school.

With no bilingual programs available at Vose at the time, Conde and her siblings struggled because none of the adults in her Spanish-speaking families could help them with their homework.

But Conde remembers one teacher who went out of his way to bring her a tape machine and headphones with bilingual lessons.

“He really showed that he cared,” said Conde.

Big changes ahead

In 2010, 16 percent of people in Beaverton and 75 percent of students at Vose were Hispanic.

To respond to changing demographics and the needs of families, the school began offering a two-way immersion program in English and Spanish.

Jennifer Swanlund enrolled her son, Tabor, in the Spanish immersion program.

“He loved his first year at Vose,” said Swanlund.

In kindergarten, Tabor rode his bike to school from his home in the Holland Park subdivision, a collection of newer homes once advertised as the “Street of New Beginnings.” It stands in stark contrast with the older homes, apartments and duplexes that make up much of the Vose neighborhood.

Swanlund, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2011, suspects that the new school building could make the area more attractive to homebuyers, thus upping the value of her home.TIMES PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Jennifer Swanlund, who lives in the Holland Park neighborhood, the site of Street of New Beginnings, looks at her son, Tabor, 7, who will be a first-grader this year. Tabor will have to go a new 'swing school' while his school, Vose Elementary School, is rebuilt.

But for some, higher home values might mean higher rent payments. Even a modest increase could potentially affect the many low-income families who live in the neighborhood and send their kids to school at Vose.

Seventy-seven percent of students at Vose this past school year were eligible for free or reduced lunch, according to a report by the Oregon Department of Education.

Gary Sanders, who has lived near Vose Elementary for 18 years, senses that big changes are about to ripple through the area. As he walked through the neighborhood, he stopped across the street from a triplex and wondered how low-income families might be affected by increased values.

“I hate to see the old school go, but it needed to go,” said Sanders. “They needed to increase the size of the schoo to support families ... who might be struggling.”

He says he’s seeing a lot of young families move into the neighborhood. People, he said, are coming back into the community.

“People are going to be amazed at an elementary school that is new, modern and appealing,” said Galvan, who is entering her fouth year as principal of Vose. “It’s going to boost the morale of the community.”

“I’m glad to see things changing,” said Sanders. “Because for a long time, they haven’t changed.”