TribTown • 'Beverly Cleary' makes shortlist for new name of Fernwood-Hollyrood

Just south of the playground at Grant Park in Northeast Portland, three bronze statues immortalize the works of beloved children's author Beverly Cleary, who grew up in the neighborhood and included local references in many of her works.

The author, who is 92 years old and today lives in Carmel, Calif., may be given an even bigger tribute if the community decides to rename its neighborhood school, Hollyrood-Fernwood K-8, in her honor.

Or, Hollyrood-Fernwood could be renamed Fernwood, Grant Park or Hollywood School. Those are the four choices - in no order - that a school renaming committee has sent to Superintendent Carole Smith for consideration, with hopes that the school will have a new name next month, before the school year wraps up.

'The school name has major significance to a lot of people,' said Anita McKey, parent of a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader at the school. 'A hyphenated name hasn't been popular with the school community. It's a mouthful.'

Hollyrood Elementary and Fernwood Middle School merged to become one school last year, even though the buildings are a 10-minute walk from each other, posing logistical problems when students gather for a school assembly, for example.

The 16-member renaming committee arrived at the four choices with input from community members, staff, students and parents in a process that began in December.

The panel first asked the public for suggestions via an online survey, then whittled down the top contenders and sent them out for another round of feedback.

The results produced no overwhelming winner, but Smith will consider the contenders before sending her recommendation to the school board's student support committee and then to the full board in May.

There are pros and cons to each proposed name, the committee found. Beverly Cleary and Fernwood received the highest number of votes - the former among adults and the latter among students.

The author is an alumnus of Fernwood and has a special place in the community, but some older students felt her works didn't represent the middle school grades.

The more neutral Grant Park and Hollywood reflect the formal names of the city park and the neighborhoods but could be confused with the actual park itself or Grant High School.

The K-8 school pulls students from many other neighborhoods outside Grant Park and Hollywood. Whatever's decided, McKey looks forward to the symbolic union a new name will bring, even if the school will remain split between two buildings.

'Of course this change to K-8 has been a big transition,' she said. 'If we had a name we could all support, whatever issues we've had, we could just go forward.'

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