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Charter school makes its pitch

PROPOSAL -- Forest Grove Community School organizers will appeal to the School Board Nov. 6

Wanted: A really cool older building, in good condition and up to code, with space for an outdoor vegetable garden. Must comfortably accommodate 250 active and inquisitive students.

Organizers of a new charter school in town are operating in high gear these days, simultaneously scouting around for a location while putting the final touches on a proposal they'll bring to the Forest Grove School Board on Nov. 6.

That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the central administration office, 1728 Main St.

Making the Forest Grove Community School a reality has been a work in progress. If they can keep to their timeline, organizers hope to open the public charter school's doors in September 2007.

First up is convincing local school board members that operating such a school in town is a good idea. In Oregon, charter schools are considered part of each public school district and must have the board's blessing.

If the local board approves the charter school proposal, they'll call for a public hearing on the project in December or January.

In the interim, the school's steering committee has set a question-and-answer 'public chat' for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 29, at the United Church of Christ, 2032 College Way.

Terry O'Day, who's been involved in the planning from the start, will breathe a sigh of relief when those first two sessions are over with.

'We're hoping to get a thumbs-up by February, and then we'll go out looking for a location' in earnest, O'Day said. 'To actually go talk to landlords or owners right now is kind of tough - it's all so vague.'

Still, O'Day noted, school supporters have put a couple of area real estate agents on the case.

'We'd like the school to be centrally located. Ideally, it'd be in downtown Forest Grove,' O'Day said.

With a couple hundred students expected to enroll in the K-12 school, 'we'll need a fairly good-sized space,' she observed.

About 20 committee members, in addition to O'Day, Robin Lindsley and Vanessa Gray, are actively working on plans for the school, whose focus will be 'place-based education.'

That means students between the ages of 5 and 18, organized into multi-age classrooms, will take active learning roles inside and outside the walls of the school.

Using sustainable living concepts, students and teachers will cultivate and manage an 'edible schoolyard' or community garden.

Current tasks include curriculum development and collecting resumes from people interested in up to 15 teaching positions.

For more information about the Forest Grove Community School, visit the school's Web site at www.fgcschool.org.