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MITCH looks for permanent home in Tualatin

TIGARD - If the MITCH Charter School wants a long-term future in the Tigard-Tualatin School District, it needs a permanent facility.

Since its sponsorship from the district began in 2002, the charter school has been floating among facilities, finding available classroom space in places like the old Tualatin Elementary School, the modulars at Tigard High and, as of now, at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Tigard.

Debi Lorence, MITCH Tigard school director, admits that the instability in the school's location has led to the loss of a few students. During moves back and forth from Tualatin and Tigard, Lorence said parents would become used to the familiarity of one city and a move to another location usually caused a few parents to withdraw their kids from MITCH.

So when the school began negotiations with the Tigard-Tualatin School District and the question of a longer contract came up, Lorence said the school was told it needed a plan for a permanent facility.

What MITCH officials came up with isn't so much a plan as it is a hope. The hope is to build a multi-million dollar facility of at least 15,000 square feet on a church property in Tualatin by 2010.

Lorence notes that school officials have not started negotiations for a lease or fully researched the development and building permits for a school facility.

'Nothing's in writing yet,' Lorence said, 'and we still have to go through the city to find out if we could even get approval.'

Still the idea of a permanent home is something Lorence has envisioned since 2005 when her students had classes in modular buildings at Tigard High and had to use portable toilets and outdoor hand-washing stations.

'We've always been excited about the issue (of a permanent facility) especially if we want to grow,' she said.

This year the school has 126 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. The majority of the students are from the Tigard-Tualatin School District, the charter school's sponsor district.

Lorence said ultimately MITCH wants to grow to 250 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade.

As of now, the Multi-sensory Instruction Teaching Children Hands-on Charter School has no official plans with the Tualatin church. But Lorence told the Tigard-Tualatin School Board on Thursday that church officials are willing to consider allowing the school to build on their property. (Since negotiations have not officially started, Lorence said the church had asked that its name not be revealed.)

A major concern for MITCH, however, will be the requirements of the city to build a school in Tualatin. Lorence notes possible traffic and road concerns that could arise from a proposed 250-student school.

In the past two years, the city of Tualatin has had two private schools build in the city. The first was Horizon Christian middle and high school. Horizon was built just outside the city limits on Norwood and Boones Ferry Road in South Tualatin in 2006. The City Council annexed the school property after weighing concerns about letting a 1,000-student capacity school operate on wells and septic tanks. By annexing the property, the school was able to receive sewer and water services.

And in November 2007, after much discussion about possible traffic impacts, the Tualatin City Council gave approval for Children's Hour Academy to operate in the Meridian Business Park on Southwest 65th Avenue located on the east side of I-5.