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Sunset closing is an urban legend

Even with building of new Trillium Creek school, rumors of closing Sunset are false

While energy is being spent to complete Trillium Creek Primary School as West Linn's newest school in the fall of 2012, the school district hasn't forgotten about one of the city's oldest schools - Sunset Primary School.

The school, which first opened in 1930, may be on the back burner for the moment, but it is not forgotten, and it will not be replaced, said Tim Woodley, the district's operations director.

With enrollment slightly down this year, rumors have circulated that, after Trillium Creek opens, the school board could choose to close Sunset.

And while Woodley isn't a school board member, he said, 'There's nothing that has taken place that would lead me to believe that.

'It's just an urban legend.'

As next-door neighbor Lake Oswego looks to close three of its nine elementary schools due to declining state revenues, people have gotten nervous, Woodley speculates.

'I think it just bleeds into the fabric... (But) where (Lake Oswego) is contracting in student enrollment, we continue to have modest increases. There would be no need to close classrooms when you need them.'

This year's enrollment decrease was not projected, and it breaks the pattern of the last few years, said superintendent Bill Rhoades. But it is too early to call the dip a trend. All of the district's schools lost students except for Athey Creek, putting West Linn enrollment down by about 100 students from last year's opening enrollment of about 5,100.

Sunset has a capacity for 479, and a current enrollment of 409 students - all of which are attending school in the main building, as the district closed its two portables last year as a part of budget cuts.

So, while opening Trillium Creek will relieve some of the crowding and create more space in Sunset's building, the district does not plan to close it.

Instead, the aging building, which has had additions built in 1941, 1957, 1960 and 1966, will likely be rebuilt using money from a future bond.

The old building has a number of structural deficiencies. The building is not built to current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, seismic standards or fire code, although, Woodley said, the district has worked with the city and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue to make the building safe.

It also has a leaky foundation and is scarce on parking, among other things.

While a 2008 committee had originally recommended replacing Sunset at the Oppenlander Fields, a 2009 commitee confirmed the neighborhood's desire to keep the school where it is. The board has acted in accordance with that ever since.

When last May's election solidified a land swap of about seven acres of former school district property at Parker Road for 1.6 acres of the city's Sunset Park, Woodley said that that the school board showed its intent is to rebuild Sunset at its current location. The exchange will help to give more space to the cramped site, which is smaller than the district's preferred site size for a primary school.

The Long Range Planning Committee is currently updating its plan and will likely include in its recommendations a timeline for the district's next capital improvement bond, which is likely to include money for Sunset Primary's reconstruction.