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Citizen's View: LOSD must address River Grove crisis

River Grove Elementary School once comfortably housed 280 students. Now, enrollment is 550 students. That’s not counting a cohort of kindergartners who, for a third year in a row, can’t go to their neighborhood school because of a lack of space.

The entire River Grove Extended Care program — serving hundreds of students and their working parents — has been booted out and relocated to Lakeridge Junior High. Students are being bused back and forth. There is no quiet space in the junior high’s Extended Care room for River Grove students to do their homework after school. There are no Community School classes for River Grove students to gain enrichment after school.

Back at River Grove, there has been minimal capital investment to address the overcrowding. There is a new wing of portable classrooms, which costs the district several hundred thousand dollars per year to lease and is already maxed out. Half of the portables are grossly undersized, creating crowded conditions in those instructional spaces. Half of the walkway along the portables remains uncovered, so kindergartners walk in the rain.

In the parking lot, the start and end of the school day requires an elaborate parking procedure to manage the crush of cars. The district has only added a few more parking spaces to the parking lot. Without fail every winter, the parking lot develops giant potholes and puddles due to poor drainage. I’m wondering when the moss on the roof will overtake the entire building.

As additional sections in almost every grade have been added, we’ve lost adequate space for music, Title I and reading/math support. The common areas — hallways, bathrooms, gym and library — are far undersized for the amount of students flowing through them. Teachers and staff go through contortions to deliver a reasonable education in a space that is simply too small. The facility no longer meets neighborhood needs.

And let’s not even get into the poor design of the school itself, with outbuildings and open walkways that horrify security experts and leave River Grove children particularly vulnerable to nightmarish scenarios. Not to mention the years and years of maintenance backlog across the entire campus.

The district’s Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee gave River Grove Elementary the poorest educational adequacy rating of all the district’s schools: .53 (.50 is the critical threshold). The poorest. That means its technology, instructional spaces, security and other variables fail to meet the teaching and learning goals put forth by Oregon’s top school district. River Grove’s physical condition, its Facilities Condition Index score, is rated poor. We should all be ashamed one of our schools is in this kind of shape.

So you’d think the replacement of River Grove would be a top priority when it comes to the district’s construction bond measure. Instead, the School Board has kicked the River Grove can down the road six to eight years, its outcome uncertain.

If voters approve the first phase of bond measures in May 2017, River Grove gets nothing to address the overcrowding. It gets limited maintenance upgrades, perhaps some technology and security improvements. No seismic mitigation. No new roof. We’d get no additional instruction spaces or a larger library or secure, enclosed walkways or a bigger parking lot. We would get a maker space for STEM — worthy, but hardly a critical need for us.

To be sure, other elementary schools suffer from their own capacity and facility issues. But River Grove is by far the worst.

Now is the time for the entire community to come together to make a long-term investment in River Grove Elementary. The school’s 550 students spend six years at their school and deserve the educational adequacy found in other Lake Oswego schools. Please join me in urging the School Board to replace River Grove in the first bond phase.

Lake Oswego resident Rachel Shafer is a current River Grove parent and former member of the LOSD’s School Advisory Committee.