The North Clackamas School District board adopted a staff recommendation July 7 to explore leasing out Clackamas Elementary School but to keep Campbell Elementary and the nine-classroom wing at Sojourner School vacant for the upcoming school year.

Acting on a recommendation from Ron Stewart, assistant superintendent for operations, the board directed staff to negotiate with Cascade Heights Charter School first and then Micha-el Waldorf School to lease Clackamas Elementary. Because of unknowns related to legislative action on full-day kindergarten, they agreed to keep Campbell vacant, along with the wing at Sojourner. New Urban High School also occupies space on the Sojourner campus.

Board members also discussed spending bond money on security systems such as cameras for the unleased properties. The schools already have card-access systems, alarms and motion detectors in place, and the district employs security people who regularly check the buildings to deter vandalism.

Kyle Walker wondered if one of the facilities could be reopened as a regular public school if the district became attractive to outside students under open enrollment policies. Stewart replied that it "might be great if that were the case," and that perhaps NCSD could create a magnet program to attract more elementary students.

Mills said district staff wants to study the situation in light of legislative discussion of new kindergarten policies. "We don't have anything on the drawing board, but with that legislation through, we felt we just needed to keep that in mind," he said.

(The Oregon Legislature set the state on track to provide full-day kindergarten by 2015 by adopting Senate Bill 248 in late June, about 10 days before adjournment.)

Gillispie again stated his philosophical opposition to leasing public school space to charter schools. "I have been very strong, and if I'm the only one, that's fine. I consider charter schools to be in competition with public schools," he said.

Scott chimed in with similar sentiments, noting that she found it ironic that public schools have had to be vacated for efficiency's sake, yet here's the district trying to keep from losing money because of the vacant buildings.

"Maybe if we had those dollars (taken away by charter schools), we wouldn't have had to close those schools that are being leased by charter schools," she said. "It all boils down to a business decision, which doesn't always serve the needs and the best interests of the children in the district."

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