by: PHOTO BY: BRETT SMITH OF ROOT PHOTOGRAPHY  - Amanda Owren (left) and Ashley Tietz are pictured as the district gave Oak Grove-based New Urban High School a possible reprieve from having to move to the Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center in Clackamas.The North Clackamas School District has provided more details in its plans to consolidate New Urban High School.

Rather than force a move north to the Sabin-Schellenberg Professional Technical Center, Superintendent Matt Utterback on March 21 promised to bring forward a recommendation to the School Board that will “require the New Urban model to adapt and change, while remaining grounded in its mission, and at the same time become more cost effective.”

Utterback surprised more than 100 people at Rex Putnam High School last month to protest school-closure proposals by announcing alternative plans to balance the NCSD budget; (for more information, see “NCSD reverses school closure plans,” March 21).

On Thursday, April 4, Utterback will suggest consolidating the Oak Grove Center and Twillight programs that provide night school and alternative programs in the same building as New Urban. Rather than save $540,000 by moving New Urban, the district estimates it can save $486,000 by cutting 6.4 full-time equivalent positions at the programs and putting them under the “New Urban umbrella.”

District officials and New Urban staff meeting at Campbell Media Center on March 22 developed the proposal.

On Feb. 28, district staff also proposed the closure of Riverside Elementary and Riverside Bilingual. As with New Urban, district officials heard from many concerned parents and community members regarding this recommendation and realized a need to slow down the process. There were questions that the district wasn’t ready to answer.

“The reality, based on current and future enrollment, is that we are operating one too many elementary schools in the Putnam feeder system,” Utterback said. “While maintaining these small schools is a reality I would love to maintain, we do not have that luxury in this financial crisis.”

A second recommendation will involve the closure of one of the elementary schools within the Putnam feeder system for the 2014-15 school year after the formation of a district boundary committee comprised of representatives from every school in the Putnam feeder system. Using criteria and data, Utterback wants this proposed committee to recommend to the School Board no later than February 1, 2014, one Putnam feeder elementary school for closure and the necessary boundary changes resulting from that recommendation.

“This process will engage the community and help it better understand why we need to close a school in the Putnam feeder system,” Utterback said. “This is a process our district has used exceptionally well over the years to make necessary changes within our feeder systems. I do realize this delay may create anxiety over the coming months but we believe this decision deserves a careful, objective, and civil analysis. This delay will also cause financial implications across the district in the coming year.”

Utterback acknowledged that it’s natural to focus on the impacts on specific school communities, but he wanted to remind the public to think of the needs of a “large and comprehensive” school district.

“As such, it becomes necessary at times to make difficult decisions that significantly impact a single school community for the greater good of the entire school district and all our students,” he said. “It serves no one when we begin to diminish other schools.”

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