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NCSD delays school closure, merges New Urban programs

North Clackamas School Board members voted unanimously on Thursday night to consolidate programs at New Urban High School and voted 6-1 to identify one of five elementary schools in the surrounding Rex Putnam High School feeder area for closure next year.

Bilquist, Concord, Oak Grove, Riverside or View Acres could be the elementary school slated to close after a superintendent advisory committee presents its analysis and report by Dec. 1. The April 4 meeting at the Schellenberg Campus on Johnson Road was crowded with students and parents alike, some with signs displaying their opposition to school closures.

One parent whose daughter is in the Spanish immersion program at Riverside expressed his concern for the closing of their school. “Equity is not closing little schools that do a good job, but reproducing that,” said Chad Flowerday, also a teacher in Portland Public Schools.

Despite the concerned testimonies from parents about closing small schools in the area between Gladstone and Milwaukie, Board Chairman Rein Vaga explained that to balance the budget to where the district was four years ago, it would need $24 million. “We must balance our budget,” he said. “That’s state law.”

With the opposition of board member Trisha Claxton, who is an Oak Grove resident, the approved plan will allow Riverside Elementary and Riverside Bilingual to remain open during the upcoming school year. The possibility of Riverside closing concerned many parents and community members after district officials made that recommendation on Feb. 28.

After promising to bring forward another recommendation that would not force a move north for New Urban to Sabin-Schellenberg Career and Technical, Superintendent Matt Utterback on March 21 instead suggested consolidating the Oak Grove Center and Twilight programs, which provide night school and alternative schools in the same building. As an alternative to saving $540,000 by moving New Urban, this consolidation is estimated by the district to save $486,000 by cutting 6.4 full-time positions at the programs and putting them under the “New Urban umbrella.”

Despite the setbacks it will cause to the Oak Grove Center, closing its current facility and causing it to redesign its model after only one year of existence, this consolidation will allow New Urban to remain in the Oak Grove neighborhood, retain important elements of its mission and increase efficiency in full-time positions to provide savings for the district at large. Claxton stated that she was excited about the impact it could have on the success of the Oak Grove Center, and she hopes that New Urban will be able to influence it in a positive way.



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