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Visions for LOSD's future include the possibility of combining high schools

Proposal is one of three options being considered as district moves toward a November bond measure

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee discuss school repairs and visions for Lake Oswego School Districts future at a recent meeting.No immediate plans exist to combine Lake Oswego High and Lakeridge High, but consolidation is among the “visions” being considered by a planning committee looking at the future of the Lake Oswego School District’s 17 buildings.

In addition to creating a 25-year plan to address deferred maintenance, the 32-person Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is working to identify and prioritize educational and facilities options for the district. The idea for combining high schools is contained in Vision 3, which was flagged by the committee for additional study months ago and has been shared with the community at a series of meetings.

If approved, the district would consider the possibility — within 10 years — of going from two high schools to one on the Lake Oswego High campus, from two junior highs to one on the Lakeridge High campus and from six elementary schools to five.

Vision 3 does not include a recommended list of elementary schools, but it does recommend constructing two replacement schools on the Lakeridge Junior High campus.

Also under consideration are:

• Vision 1, which does not involve consolidations or new construction, concentrating instead on repairing current facilities; and

• Vision 2, which would involve building replacement schools for Oak Creek Elementary (which has leaking roofs and other water intrusion issues) and Lakeridge Junior High (which has cracked walls). This vision also would involve keeping the schools configured as they are today and repairing schools according to the committee’s draft recommendations.

All three visions will be on the agenda when the committee meets again on Jan. 20 at Lakeridge High School. The committee has not advocated for one vision over the other, but has recommended that the district conduct additional research to determine the feasibility of Visions 2 and 3.

In a recent vote (with four committee members absent), no one recommended that the district look more closely at Vision 1. Vision 2 received 13 votes, while Vision 3 received 16. The committee will make its formal recommendation Jan. 25 at a school board work session, although a draft of its report is available now on the school district’s website.

“All we can do is recommend, and the school board takes it from there,” committee member Courtney Clements said. “We’re just saying, ‘Here’re some ideas.’”

Clements, who is also a member of Lake Oswego Junior High’s School Advisory Committee and the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network, said the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee is interested in what the public has to say. The Jan. 20 community meeting is a great opportunity to speak up, she said.

“Everyone’s voice is needed, everyone’s opinion is needed,” Clements said. “Let’s talk about this.”

Public opinion

The committee has shared all three visions with the community at regular meetings and at two public input sessions in November. But after a Jan. 7 meeting when the committee presented a draft of its Long Range Facility Plan report, the issue of consolidation flared up on social media and prompted readers to reach out to neighbors and to The Review.

The Lake Oswego Citizens Action League urged residents to attend the Jan. 20 committee meeting at Lakeridge. So did postings on the Nextdoor.com network of neighborhood websites.

“Why would our pretty, idyllic Lake Oswego ever want a mega-high school?” Maya Barba, the parent of four children ages 11 to 19, asked in an email. She said she had expressed her concerns to "hundreds of wonderful families."

Lake Oswego resident and businessman Ben Patinkin said on Facebook that he definitely doesn’t support the vision of one high school.

“I have to be honest, I’m personally very concerned about this,” Patinkin wrote. “I moved to this community for its safe, walkable, neighborhood-focused schools and equitable and high-quality learning environment.”

He told The Review he’d like to hear a good reason to make changes to an already successful school district. He’s concerned as the father of a first-grader and a child who will be in kindergarten in two years that the schools won’t be what his family moved to Lake Oswego for.

BECKDistrict officials say it’s important to remember, however, that the committee’s report is still in its early stages and that the school board hasn’t voted on it formally.

“This is a process, and there will be more opportunities for public input in the near future,” said Heather Beck, the Lake Oswego School District’s superintendent.

The board could accept the full report or only portions of it. The board also could recommend further studies by district staff or send the report back to committee.

“Repair, renovate, rebuild — the suggestions for further research from the committee don't necessarily limit the considerations to only the two approaches,” Lake Oswego School Board Chairwoman Liz Hartman said. “With public input on what the public will support, where the public needs more information about research available on successful delivery of education to help student success, the picture will develop on what a Lake Oswego education should be for this community in future planning.”

BARMANHartman said the committee is responsibly looking at as many potential scenarios as may arise for the district and community within the next two decades.

“People are thinking about today and not tomorrow,” Hartman said. “When you’ve got kids who are in school right now, you’re thinking about the next one or two years, but we have to think about today and tomorrow — and tomorrow being further away than 2016.”

School board member Bob Barman agreed.

"I am proud that this committee of citizens is looking at every pathway to make education for all kids the best that it can,” Barman said. “The conversation has been deep, and it’s just beginning.”

Addressing a need

The Long Range Facilities Planning Committee, which first met on Sept. 16, was formed to develop a Long Range Facility Plan to guide district operations and comply with state requirements. School districts must establish such a plan, by state law, before placing a bond measure on the ballot — something the district plans to do in November.

The district is seeking a bond because it is facing at least $98 million in brick-and-mortar repairs and seismic upgrades to facilities, a total that does not include an additional 30-35 percent in soft costs such as personnel and design. Maintenance was deferred during the recession at many of the 197 school districts in Oregon, according to a 2014 Portland State University report, to the tune of at least $7.6 billion.

To understand what improvements the Lake Oswego School District needs and to come up with visions for the future, the committee considered a lot of data and options and spent a great deal of time visiting school campuses — “an intense several months,” said Anne-Marie Simpson, a committee member.

“This is really just a foundation, sorting through some preliminary information and pointing out some things we felt were worth considering,” said Simpson, who is also the City of Lake Oswego’s city recorder.

But regardless of the need for change, the committee’s visions have a few detractors.

“We moved to LO because the schools were smaller,” parent Karie Jett posted on the Westridge Elementary PTSO Facebook page. “Having a smaller school creates a closer class among the students and teachers and a more nurturing environment for our kids. … LO school district is MILLERconstantly being recognized as a top district. This is because of how we are doing things. Why change it up?”

If the board approves the vision to move toward one high school, it would continue to be part of the bond process. The next step for the school board will be to appoint a Bond Development Committee, which will be tasked with transforming the recommendations in the Long Range Facility Plan into a set of proposed physical improvements and repairs to the district’s schools for the school board to vote on.

“If the (vision is) accepted by the board and moved forward into the bond planning phase, then the Bond Development Committee will study that and develop cost estimates and then make a determination: Does that make sense, and does it make sense for that to be included in the bond program,” said Randy Miller, the district’s executive director of project management.

HARTMANThere will be many more chances for the public to chime in while the Bond Development Committee creates a list of recommended projects and looks at the visions.

“Public comment and feedback is included in this process as well,” Hartman said.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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If you go

• Long Range Facility Plan community meeting

When: 6 p.m. Jan. 20

Where: Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Drive, Lake Oswego

• Lake Oswego School Board work session

When: 6 p.m. Jan. 25

Where: Lake Oswego High School, 2501 Country Club Road, Lake Oswego

For more information, visit bit.ly/1NvkS7X.