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Eagle Creek Elementary discussion gets emotional

The Estacada School District Principals’ first monthly “Time for Parents” meeting was emotional.

The uncertain future of Eagle Creek Elementary was at the forefront of discussion on Wednesday, June 12.

Despite Estacada Junior High School Principal Tina Rhue’s assurance that it “has not been an agenda item that has come up at the district level,” the topic of Eagle Creek Elementary’s potential closure dominated the meeting.

Some concerned parents spoke of how heartbroken they would be if Eagle Creek Elementary closed while others tried to take a more pragmatic view.

Clackamas River Elementary Principal Seth Johnson mentioned that hopefully a long term plan for the district — and Eagle Creek Elementary — will be shaped through these “Time for Parents” meetings.

Eagle Creek Elementary Principal Dan Draper assured parents that the school will be open next year.

“The decision we’ve made is to have Clackamas River be a K-6 and Eagle Creek Elementary to be a K-6 for the 2013-14 school year,” Johnson said.

However, both Johnson and Draper pointed out that the elementary schools will have significant challenges in the coming year.

Clackamas River Elementary will face fourth-grade class sizes of 37 to 38 students.

In a later interview, Johnson clarified that due to budget cuts, Clackamas River will go from the three full time fourth-grade teachers it had in the 2012-13 school year to two full-time and one part-time fourth-grade teacher in the 2013-14 school year. He noted that for part of the day the students would be in a roughly 1:25 teacher-student ratio and would only be in classrooms of 37-38 students for a portion of the day.

Eagle Creek Elementary will have some blended classrooms in 2013-14.

The principals said that some sort of solution must be reached for balancing the elementary schools in the face of the district’s declining enrollment and the economic hardships.

One parent was convinced that administrative mismanagement was responsible for the idea of the closure of Eagle Creek Elementary even being on the table for discussion.

“Last year administrators, especially Dr. (Howard) Fetz said adamantly ‘We’re not even going to think of closing Eagle Creek Elementary. It’s such a strong community,’ ” Rhue said in response. “We were shocked when the idea came up this year. No matter what we do, half the people aren’t going to be happy.”

“Every day when I drop off my kids off (at Eagle Creek Elementary) I think, ‘Oh my God, how beautiful,” said Darian Krieter, the PTA president at Eagle Creek Elementary.

However, when considering the need to balance the resources and enrollment of the elementary schools, she thinks centralizing the schools could be a good idea. Even though she would hate not having her kids at Eagle Creek Elementary.

“I’m trying not to look at it emotionally, but what is best for our kids,” she said.

Estacada High School Principal Scott Sullivan emphasized his belief that children get emotional when they see their parents getting emotional.

When his daughter’s school, Riverside Elementary in the North Clackamas School District was up for closure he wrote to the school board and said “I know it’s a tough decision, but do what you have to do (for what’s best for our kids).”

“I think we as adults need to be good models for our kids,” he said.

The conversation shifted to the closure of River Mill Elementary.

One parent told of her trepidation at its closure, but watched her children make the transition to a new elementary school with few or no problems.

Rhue, the former principal of River Mill Elementary, stressed that even though she was “heartbroken” when River Mill Elementary closed, it’s important to find positive solutions for moving forward.

“Is the school the building?” Johnson mused. “Or is the school the teachers, the staff, the people who make the school?”

“Put that in the paper!” Rhue said.

The July “Time for Parents” meeting has been cancelled. The next meeting will be 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at Clackamas River Elementary.

The meeting location will rotate between schools from month to month.

The home principal will act as moderator.



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