Oregon Trail Primary Academy begins second year
by: Lisa Anderson Chris Goede teaches the first fifth-grade class at the Oregon Trail Primary Academy. One of his students (with hands raised) was excited to be called first for a reading activity the second week of school.

A new facility. A new fifth grade. A new year. The Oregon Trail Primary Academy is off to its second year as the district charter school, and new Director James Milliken says the transitions made for this year have gone smoothly.

'Everybody is housed in the same building, which is really important,' Milliken said.

In August, the academy transitioned into the former Cottrell Elementary School in Boring. Previously, the academy included modular classroom spaces and the Mandarin teacher, Sandy Shen, traveled classroom to classroom for instruction.

Milliken, teachers and students agree the move is welcomed. One side of the main hall is lined with colorful backpacks and lunch pails. On the other side are huge posters. Featured on one are 'Mrs. (Becca) Reel's Beach Angels.'

Down the fall, Megan Smith teaches the scientific method to her fourth-graders with a projected cartoon.

In Chris Goede's fifth-grade class, the first for the academy, students call out the definition of similes and metaphors during reading time.

Most of the class has been with Goede since fourth grade, and the students are glad to return to a familiar teacher.

Emma Reiser and Jenna Grimmer, both 10, agreed Mr. Goede was open to what his class thinks and likes, asking students' opinions on class topics and rules.

This is part of the schoolwide 'essential agreements' that administrators, teachers and students make collectively to set the tone for the school year.

'It will be fun to see what else we'll do with him this year,' Emma said about class with Mr. Goede.

For Emma and Jenna, returning to the former Cottrell Elementary School is a homecoming. The two attended Cottrell through third grade before joining the primary academy for fourth grade.

'It's exciting,' Jenna said. 'Mr. Goede is trying to make it an excellent school year.'

Enrollment at the primary academy is up to 155 from 130 students last year, with 12 open slots -- six in fourth grade and six in fifth grade.

Besides Sandy, students come from Estacada, Portland, Gresham and Welches.

'Walking down the hallways and stepping into classrooms is really rewarding,' Milliken said.

He envisions the academy program, which is an International Baccalaureate candidate, expanding to middle school in the next five years, with the exploration of high school, too.

Affixed near the door to Goede's classroom door is a Dr. Seuss quote that aligns well with the morning reading in his class and beginning of a new school year:

'The more that you read, the more things you will know, the more that you learn, the more places you'll go.'

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