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LOSD invites public to tour local schools

Outreach is part of the district's efforts to explain the need for a bond

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Susan Corgan pauses to survey a Lakeridge High classroom during one of the first in a series of free tours of local schools.Measure 5 and a recession set back the Lake Oswego School District in terms of maintenance and seismic upgrades to the tune of about $100 million, LOSD administrator Randy Miller told a group touring Lake Oswego High School on Monday.

“We were struggling just to keep the doors open,” he said, “and ended up having to forgo spending money on facilities.”

With property tax revenue decreasing, the district chose to invest money in teachers and staff, Miller said, rather than in new roofs and electrical improvements. The LOSD also reduced the number of elementary schools from nine to six from 2011-13, and moved sixth grade to the junior highs.

But school officials say the time has now come to address deferred maintenance issues, and a bond measure is tentatively planned for the May 2017 election. As part of the bond development process, LOSD staff and Lake Oswego School Board members have attended more than 50 public meetings, speaking with neighborhood associations and school committees in a coordinated outreach effort.

This week, they kicked off a series of free tours so that community members can see the condition of the district’s schools for themselves.

Miller, the LOSD’s executive director of project management, and school board member John Wendland hosted the first two tours of the 10 operating schools on Monday. Miller and Wendland showed groups around Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools, with guidance from the schools’ principals and building engineers.

Next week, attendees can view the foggy, water-damaged windows of Hallinan and Oak Creek, the discolored brick of Lake Grove’s outer walls and the rotting ceiling of the Forest Hills covered play area. The following week, tour groups can check out Westridge's water-damaged windows, River Grove's worn carpeting, the network of cracks marring Lakeridge Junior High's floors and walls, and Lake Oswego Junior High's timeworn exterior.

“I hope members of the community find time to participate in these tours,” Lake Oswego School Board Chairwoman Sarah Howell told The Review. “Our schools are the heart of our community, and many of these vital assets are aging. Staff members will explain how the district has managed the buildings with very limited dollars.”

The reason for the tours is clear: Half of the people polled during a March 28-April 3 phone survey rated the physical condition of the district’s buildings as either “excellent” (12 percent) or “pretty good” (38 percent), in stark contrast to the reality reported in a Facilities Condition Assessment completed last year.

That report ranked LOHS as “good” and Lakeridge High as “fair,” the best and next-best ratings. But all of the junior high and elementary schools were ranked as either in “poor” or “critical” condition, the second-to-worst and worst ratings. And even the high schools need work. Lakeridge’s pavement is cracked in places and some of its pipes are original and rusting. Lakeridge and LOHS both need alterations to their roofs to improve drainage.

“When we talk about the bond and what we’re up against in terms of the condition of our facilities, today is not exactly representative,” Wendland said Monday, “because we went to Lake Oswego High School, which is our newest high school.”

Lakeridge is also in decent shape, he noted, and both schools’ academic, arts and athletics programs are excellent.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Portland Community College faculty member Ross Folberg (left) participated in tours of Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools. School board member John Wendland (right) helped lead both tours, and LOHS Principal Rollin Dickinson (center) welcomed the guests to his school.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Marie Hebert during a tour of Lakeridge, where her eighth-grade son will be taking Spanish and geometry classes this fall. “I didn’t know they had so many terrific arts programs. I’m really impressed.”

The high schools are in the best condition of any facilities in LOSD because they were taken care of with funds from the district’s most-recently approved bond. LOHS was rebuilt in 2005 and Lakeridge was renovated in 2004, using funds from an $85 million bond voters approved in 2000. But the tours scheduled over the next two weeks will likely paint a different picture, something tour participant Marilyn Rudin acknowledged on Monday.

“I think our schools should be safe from a disaster standpoint, but also, I think from an educational standpoint, they should keep up with the times,” said Rudin, who is involved in disaster planning with the City of Lake Oswego.

The school board hasn’t finalized a bond plan yet, though it intends to do so this month. So far, the board has decided that every school should be touched by the bond with some type of repairs or upgrades and that both junior high schools should be replaced as soon as possible — although both replacements may not land a place on the May bond.

“With community support for a facilities bond, we intend to improve safety and the educational adequacy of many of our buildings,” Howell said. “Touring the buildings will help people understand the enormous investment this will take.”

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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Forest Hills Elementary: 1133 Andrews Road; 8:30-9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8

Hallinan Elementary: 16800 Hawthorne Drive; 10-11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8

• Lake Grove Elementary: 15777 Boones Ferry Road; 8:30-9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9

• Oak Creek Elementary: 55 Kingsgate Road; 10-11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9

River Grove Elementary: 5850 McEwan Road; 8:30-9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15

Westridge Elementary: 3400 Royce Way; 10-11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15

Lake Oswego Junior High: 2500 Country Club Road; 8:30-9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16

Lakeridge Junior High: 4700 Jean Road; 10-11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16