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Reopen Palisades, parent panel suggests
In contrast to last year's decision to close three elementary schools, a parent committee for redrawing boundaries on the south side of the lake is recommending that Palisades Elementary School be reopened due to tight capacities at the three remaining south side schools: Hallinan, Westridge and River Grove.
Last year, the school board opted for closing Palisades (in the south) in the fall of 2011 and shuttering Uplands (in the north) and Bryant (in the south) in the fall of 2012. The closures are expected to save between $2.1 and $2.3 million annually with the closures, which will help close the district's $5.5 million funding gap this year.
Opening Palisades would cost $820,000 annually, but it would add 19 classrooms to the south side. Because the schools on the north side of the lake are bigger buildings than those on the south side, the south side would be down nine classrooms if Bryant closes.
The committee suggested the extra classrooms at Palisades could house an expanded language immersion program if the board approves the proposal.
As a second option, the committee suggested a flexible boundary adjustment between the north and south sides that would allow River Grove students who currently live in the north part of the River Grove attendance area to attend Lake Grove for elementary school while still attending Waluga and Lakeridge for secondary schools. Costs for this option are $25,000 to $75,000.
The committee is scheduled to present its recommendation to the school board at an April 9 meeting, when the administration will also present a recommendation. The board will hold a public hearing at its April 23 meeting, during which it will likely vote on south-side boundaries.
During the boundary redrawing process, various concerns resurfaced from last year's process, including the traditionally high number of students who transfer out of River Grove to other schools - including north-side schools. But next year with fewer elementary schools open and tighter capacities at all schools, parents who live in the River Grove boundary area won't have as many options.
At a January meeting, Karen Delaney, who was the Westridge Elementary representative on the consolidation committee, blamed a liberal transfer policy for creating a larger student body at Lake Oswego High School.
According to Superintendent Bill Korach, students could be restricted from transferring from south to north in order to achieve balance in secondary level enrollment - which has not been the district's practice - but then there might not be enough room in south side elementary schools.
Last year, the district's numbers on transfers weren't viewed as a deterrent to closing two schools on the south side, but due to concerns raised by Lakeridge parents of the elective course parity between the two high schools, the issue is getting closer scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the school district has been working toward the approved closure of three schools, and therefore the board tentatively approved the siting of two used portables at River Grove Elementary School, which will provide four additional classrooms and make room for new students due to the boundary redraw. The portables would cost about $70,000 and include plumbing, ramps and awnings.
Korach explained that the school district needs to move forward with the option of portables now in order to begin city permitting and other planning.
'You have to start the process much sooner than you might think to be able to have the option,' said Korach. 'You have to cover your bases.'
The board could still choose not to use portables at a later time, he said.
Korach has stated in the past that the portables would be temporary and that the district could begin the process for adding a wing to River Grove, which would also accommodate for growth that the neighborhood is experiencing.
The parent committee is not recommending the placing of portables at River Grove, while a petition started by River Grove parents is circulating in support of portables as a short-term option before a new wing of classrooms could be built. The parents say that the cost of adding a wing to River Grove is much less expensive than operating a fourth school over the long term.
The portables are just one item on a list of physical changes the school district is planning as part of its transition of sixth graders to middle schools while making room for all elementary students in the remaining six schools. The district expects to spend about $225,000 total and includes repurposing classroom pods at Bryant for science and computer labs as well as locker space. The district also hopes to link Bryant's clocks, bells, intercom and fire alarm to Waluga. In the main Waluga building, the art room would get a new space, as well.
At Lake Oswego Junior High School, the district will move the art room, convert a room into a computer lab and renovate one regular classroom.
Also there will be new signage at both new middle schools.
Forest Hills Elementary School on the north side, which will adjust its building to accommodate additional students from closing Uplands elementary, needs to convert a room to a new computer room.