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New Christian school is nearly complete

Horizon Christian High School is expected to open Sept. 11
by: Jonathan House, A NEW HORIZON — Grace Community Church Development Director Steve Glavan stands in a classroom on the second floor of the newly built 49,000-square-foot Horizon Christian High School. The school is located just down the road from Tualatin High School on Southwest Boones Ferry Road.

TUALATIN - As Steve Glavan walked through the empty carpeted hallways of the new Horizon Christian High School recently, his footsteps and voice were swallowed by the stillness.

And as he clapped his hands in the building's 7,000-square-foot multi-purpose room, the harsh sound echoed off the walls.

'Yeah, it is quiet,' said Grace Community Church's development director. 'But that'll change in about three weeks.'

Administrators have scheduled the new school to open Sept. 11. And while the church was thinking 'high school' when it built and designed the 49,000-square-foot facility, the first users of the new building will be a mixture of children of all ages. Horizon Christian High has more than 70 students enrolled for its ninth- through 11th-grade school. Admis-sions administrators had originally hoped to have 200 students enroll for the first fall semester.

But with Grace Community Church's decision to also move its middle school into the facility, an additional 140 students will be schooled on the campus in modular buildings. The church also plans to move its daycare program into the first floor of the building. The daycare has 49 children enrolled, Glavan said.

Of course, the total number of kids this year is nowhere near the ultimate 1,000 students the campus could hold once all three phases are complete. The number was one that weighed heavily on Tualatin city officials as they discussed approval for water and sewer connections to the school, which technically is not inside the city limits. The utility services were approved with a notation that the city would likely annex the property later this summer. An annexation hearing that was set for Monday's council meeting was rescheduled to Sept. 25.

But the perceived fast pace of the school's construction and the eagerness on the part of the city to approve annexation has at least one city resident worried about impacts on traffic and street congestion.

'I would like for people who develop - whether it be commercial development like Bridgeport Village or a church - to try to stop the impact on existing roads and existing problems,' said Dennis Lively, a Tualatin resident and former city councilor.

Lively is concerned that since the church was originally developed outside the city and built to county codes, road improvements will not reflect city traffic impact standards or requirements.

His fear is that traffic on Sunday mornings will begin to resemble the traffic experienced by Sunday drivers on Borland Road near Rolling Hills Church - long lines of cars waiting to exit a church parking lot while traffic backs up on the main road.

While the church has no immediate plans to move church activities to the new campus, it will eventually.

'We want to be good neighbors,' Glavan said commenting on the issue of traffic concerns. 'We're prepared to do our part whatever that may be.'

The church will be making some improvements to existing roads, including widening a portion of Southwest Boones Ferry Road. But according to Glavan, the school will not need to put in a traffic signal.

'We went through due diligence with ODOT and traffic studies. Nothing in the initial studies noted a need for a traffic signal,' Glavan said.

The school will have three driveways. The main one will connect to Southwest Boones Ferry Road, and the other two will connect to Southwest Norwood Road.

The school is less than a mile down the road from Tualatin High School. Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden said he knows and understands the concerns that Lively has about traffic.

'It's all about cars,' said Ogden. 'It's not about the people or the kids. It's about the cars. I support what the church doing for their mission and so on, but we're also concerned with the traffic issue.'

Ogden added that by annexing the school into the city limits, the city would have more control over the future growth impacts of the school.

'It's in the best interest of the 25,000 people who live here to bring it in now,' Ogden said.

Lively doesn't agree. He sees the annexation of the school and the nearby roads as taking on more problem roads that will compete for funding with other traffic issues in the city.

But for Grace Community Church, its members are excited that its new campus will be in the city. The church has been in the city for 30 years and its elementary and now middle schools for about 25 years.

Recently, crews worked busily to pour concrete and paint lines for about 500 parking spaces that are expected to be completed by the time school starts.

And while lockers still needed to be installed and furniture had not yet been delivered, Glavan said everyone is still optimistic about the starting date for the new school, although alternative sites have been found in the event the school does not open in time.

When the church first started plans for the new high school about five years ago, Glavan admitted, no one really knew if it would ever come to fruition.

Now, referring to parents and families as pioneers, Glavan was amazed how every day when he comes into the new building, walls and doors appear. It came together more every day, he said.