School closures idea raises concerns


Parents teach us a great deal, and a few of the many lessons I learned at home included the importance of helping others around us, holding those in charge accountable for their actions, and standing up for what is right.

I am committed to these values, which is why I became involved in examining the Lake Oswego School District administration and school board's plans to close three elementary schools.

When the idea of closing schools came to light last year, many were surprised that no other financial options were on the table. So, a group of citizens went to work, met with the administration, met with the school board, tried to understand the issues and helped deliver solid alternatives.

However, when multiple financial alternatives to Reconfiguration plan 'B' were rejected by the school board in favor of a single plan to close schools, I had to ask, 'Why?' It simply didn't make sense to me.

Independent and highly experienced Lake Oswego parent business leaders reviewed the budget and suggested that Scenario 'B' is unnecessarily risky.

Independent scholars from all corners of the country suggested that the middle school model is flawed and have advised us against it for our sixth graders.

Independent experts in logistics developed a model that showed Scenario 'B' is mathematically flawed unless the community is willing to sacrifice core programs like extended care, increase class sizes and consider portables to support future continued growth in elementary enrollment.

Some citizens believe unquestionably in the district's leadership: That its plan to close schools is based on fact, and is unequivocally the only option; furthermore, the district's legacy through good economic times gives it unquestionable credentials to implement such a plan. The district divided the community into a fictional, 'teachers versus buildings' fight.

No such simple trade off has ever existed, and this claim is both misleading and inflammatory.

Other citizens found a number of misleading elements of the district's school closure plan:

n District leadership did not thoroughly exhaust all alternatives to closing three schools.

n Enrollment is not declining in elementary schools; in fact the K-3 population has been trending up for the past several years.

n Our existing K-5 population does not fit in six remaining elementary schools, and the plan disregards the growth trend in this cohort.

n The 'middle school' paradigm is regarded as an unsuccessful model for sixth graders, both academically and socially.

While the city and parent community have stepped up with funding for our schools, Scenario 'B' lingers like a dark storm cloud over our community as the consolidation committee presses forward with its plan, despite all the facts.

I continue to believe that citizens can stand up and make a difference despite the odds, despite fighting legacies and despite misinformation.

If you agree, please share your opinion with the district's administration and school board before April 25.

Margaret Mead once said, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'

Martha Testa is a resident of Lake Oswego.