Teachers across the district prepare for big changes next year: sixth grade classrooms move to middle school and Bryant and Uplands close
This week the mood at Bryant and Uplands elementary schools is mournful as teachers pack up their classrooms for the last time, but the community can certainly be thankful that the Lake Oswego School District has avoided classroom teacher layoffs next year thanks to the closures of both schools.
The district closed Palisades Elementary School last year, and the closures of all three schools provides an estimated savings of $1.8 million this year, with more savings to come in the years ahead.
The remaining six elementary schools are Forest Hills, Lake Grove, Oak Creek, Hallinan, Westridge and River Grove.
The shifting of staff to other buildings this year is quite an undertaking, as 50 teachers from all eight of the district's elementary schools will be at other buildings next year. Teachers finished packing today.
'It's been crazy!' said Uplands principal Carol Whitten, who with the help of building engineer Thoi Nguyen, closed Palisades Elementary last year. 'This huge process actually started when the closures were announced last year so in effect we've had a full year to plan and get prepared. But this affects the whole district - it is huge!'
Although teachers can transfer between schools any year, the district had a more extensive process this year and allowed all elementary teachers to submit their school preference.
Human resource director Mary Kaer said that '90-plus percent' of teachers were able to get their top choice and stay within their grade level.
'It was amazing how well it worked out,' she said.
From Bryant, the majority of the teachers will be shifting to River Grove. From Uplands, teachers are split between Forest Hills, Oak Creek and Lake Grove.
Parents at Forest Hills held a packing party to help move teachers' possessions out of classrooms to accommodate teachers arriving from other schools. To keep grade level classrooms near each other most every teacher was moved.
'Even a move down the hall wasn't just a move down the hall,' said Whitten of the Forest Hills action. 'It's just physically a lot of hard work ... and people are tired already. Then there is an emotional component, too.'
Nguyen said that several teachers at Uplands had decades worth of materials to shift through, which created a strain on recycling and garbage bins. Many of the younger teachers use electronic filing systems, which created less of a paper load and made their moves lighter. And even though books, supplies and other items could be boxed and ready to move, their destination location was not yet ready to receive the load, hence the need for the careful orchestration of moves at each building. At Uplands and at most other schools, boxes were being stored in hallways and the cafeteria awaiting moving day, July 11.
Whitten said she has focused all year on keeping classroom supply inventories low and any surplus supplies will be shipped to Oak Creek and Forest Hills, where Uplands students are transferring.
'It was nice to have a year to plan,' she said. 'Now we just have to keep focused. It is smoother this year. The teachers did wonderfully! It has been incredible.
'The last day was difficult,' she said. 'At the end of the day the whole staff went outdoors and waved goodbye to the kids as they left school.'
'I keep telling the teachers it will be OK,' said Nguyen. 'In September you'll be in a new class and you'll be OK. You'll get used to it.'
The school district was able to achieve the efficiencies of smaller schools by shifting sixth-graders from all elementary schools to the district's two middle schools: Lake Oswego Junior High School and the newly named Lakeridge Junior High School (formerly Waluga). Sixteen teachers from the eight current elementary schools will be moving with students to teach at the middle school level next year: 10 to LOJ and 6 to Lakeridge Junior High School. Most of them have been teaching in 5/6 classrooms.
'Our custodians are working hard to do the internal moves and initial cleaning so we can be ready when the new teachers' things are moved over,' said Ann Gerson, principal at Lake Oswego Junior High. 'We will be able to move most directly into classrooms but there is some work that needs to be done in some of the rooms so there will be staging in the cafeteria while that work is done.'
Even with all the planning it was a hectic week and Bryant principal Dan Sterling and incoming Lakeridge Junior High principal, David Lovelin, were unable to take time to discuss events with the Review this week or next.
With the closures, the school district did a layoff of the 10 least senior classified staff, mostly educational assistants. With Palisades closure last year, the school district was able to avoid layoffs because of the retirements of other employees. Kaer said that the school district hopes to be able to bring them all back to work for the district.
'They have layoff rights for 27 months,' she said. 'Every time we have a vacancy, we go to our layoff list and call them back in order of seniority.'
Since Kaer arrived three years ago, the district has not had a year with as many as 10 layoffs. But in those years, the district had small cuts and eventually added laid-off employees back to its staff.
The school district reduced its administrative staff by two principal positions but was able to accommodate changes with retirements. New assignments for principals were announced earlier this year (see sidebar for principal assignments).
In July, the actual moving will begin - first for the teachers moving to the middle schools and then for the teachers moving to other elementary schools. The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints is providing 125 volunteers to help with the move, which will take place in the evening.
'It saves a huge amount (of money),' Kaer said, 'and it's completed in a timely manner. Last year with Palisades ... it was quite a process. This year will be quite different.'
For the closure of Palisades, there were no volunteers. Instead the district relied on its own building engineers and custodial staff.
The following is a breakdown of principals (and in some cases, vice principals) at schools within the Lake Oswego School District:
River Grove -Dan Sterling (former Bryant principal)
Lake Grove - Carol Whitten (former Uplands principal)
Hallinan - Sara Deboy (former Lake Grove principal)
Forest Hills - Gwen Hill*
Oak Creek - Karen Lachman*
Westridge - Scott Lane*
Lake Oswego JHS
â€¢ Ann Gerson, principal*
â€¢ Desiree Fisher, vice principal (former teacher, counselor and teacher on special assignment at LOJHS)
â€¢ Dave Lovelin, principal (former LOHS vice principal)
â€¢ Michael Esping, vice principal (former Waluga/LOJ vice principal, former Palisades principal)
â€¢ Bruce Plato, principal*
â€¢ Jason Wold, vice principal (former Lakeridge vice principal)
â€¢ Cindy Schubert, assistant principal*
â€¢ Jennifer Schiele, principal (former Waluga principal)
â€¢ John Parke, vice principal (former vice principal of Waluga/LOJ)
â€¢ Robert Caplinger, assistant principal*
* Indicates no change