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Community weighs in on long-term plan for Lake Oswego School District's future


Long Range Facilities Planning Committee delivers its final report while consolidation opponents gather outside

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Community members gathered before a school board meeting Monday to express their disapproval of a vision for one high school in Lake Oswego. From left: Krissy Wygarden; and Maya, Rachel and David Barba.With sign-toting opponents of consolidation rallying outside, the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee delivered its final report to the Lake Oswego School Board on Monday night.

Board members discussed the long-term proposal for the district’s facilities at a work session in the Lake Oswego High School library, but heard no public testimony at the work session, when no vote was scheduled. A vote on the Long Range Facilities Plan is scheduled for Feb. 8.

“Every journey starts with one step,” board member Sarah Howell said, “and I think we’re a few steps forward.”

Lake Oswego parents Maya and David Barba, whose four children range in age from 11 to 19, said they led the rally to show their displeasure with a concept mentioned in the plan — a “vision” that would consolidate Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools.

Standing at the bottom of the LOHS front steps, the gathering of eight people carried signs saying “No consolidation” and “No Mega Schools in LO.” Neither of the Barbas had ever joined a protest, they said, let alone held their own rally.

“I feel so strongly, so passionately," Maya Barba said, "that (consolidation) is a bad idea.”

Consolidation is actually one of three long-range ideas mentioned in the final facilities plan, which was created to help the district address growth, capacity and at least $98 million in deferred maintenance and seismic upgrades — a total that does not include additional soft costs, such as design work and personnel.

The report fulfills a state requirement and will be used to help the district craft a bond measure that is likely to go before voters in November.

As part of the process, the committee also looked at educational approaches and how buildings can evolve to support them. In a section called “Planning for the Future,” the committee recommends the board further study the feasibility of all three conceptual “visions,” including one that would go from two high schools to one within a decade.

But the board may or may not decide to pursue further studies for the visions, district administrators said; they are just ideas that the committee put forth, not official proposals. Either way, the district now must form a bond committee to transform the recommendations into a set of proposed physical improvements and repairs to the district’s buildings.

Board members will vote on that list of projects later this year.

Still, the consolidation idea has certainly caught the public’s interest. At least 120 people attended the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee’s meeting on Jan. 20, and most of the two dozen who shared their views agreed on one thing: The committee’s “vision” of combining Lake Oswego and Lakeridge high schools is not an idea they support.

“We moved here for the schools,” Lake Oswego parent Cathy Lewis Dougherty said. “Absolutely, that’s the reason we moved. We lived in Los Angeles; I’ve experienced bigger schools. This is better.”

A couple of speakers did support the idea of consolidation, including Casey Lum, a Lake Oswego High School senior. Lum said she knows there’s a lot of concern about the concept of one high school, but she thinks the idea offers more opportunities for collaboration. REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Several high school students attended the Jan. 20 public input session, and a few even testified before the large crowd.

“I think the current rivalry right now can be destructive,” Lum said.

But Lakeridge High School senior Matthew Jordan said he came to Lakeridge as a three-sport athlete and has enjoyed the many opportunities at his school, including serving in his current role as Associated Student Body vice president. Jordan said one school would mean fewer opportunities for students to be involved, such as having one ASB instead of two.

“It’s been an opportunity and a pleasure to serve Lakeridge, and seeing it go away would just be a shame,” he said.

And David Barba testified that he believes the attention focused on the one-high-school vision — “the elephant in the room” — is detracting from the goal of passing a bond to pay for improvements to school buildings.

“I don’t want to spend the next six months fighting a bad idea," Barba said, "and then a bond doesn’t get passed.”

Jordan recently posted on a new Facebook page called Save Lakeridge that he has started a petition drive at change.org in support of keeping two high schools. He said he plans to deliver the petition, which had 1,137 supporters as of Tuesday, to the Lake Oswego School Board.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - At least 120 people attended a Jan. 20 public input session on the school district's Long Range Facilities Plan.

Creating a plan

Before the Jan. 20 meeting opened to public testimony, administrators, committee members and a representative from Dull Olson Weekes-IBI Group Architects explained the planning process, sharing in-depth details such as local population figures and a district report on the condition of school buildings, eight out of 10 of which are in “poor” or “critical” condition.

The presenters also outlined the Long Range Facilities Plan’s three “visions” for the district’s future:

• Vision 1, which focuses on renovating current facilities;

• Vision 2, which involves building two new schools while also performing repairs; and

• Vision 3, which proposes going from two high schools to one on the Lake Oswego High campus and from two junior highs to one on the Lakeridge High campus within 10 years. The committee’s draft report also recommended going from six elementary schools to five, but that option was removed from the vision submitted Monday.

The committee said Vision 3 would make schools less expensive to operate and create “one Lake Oswego.” But it also cautioned that the proposal would result in the loss of a “smaller school experience” and “fewer opportunities athletically for varsity sports.”

In a recent vote, Visions 2 and 3 both received support from committee members, while no one backed Vision 1. On Monday, committee Chairman Ed Hutson said Vision 1 is like “putting lipstick on a pig.”REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Committee Chairman Ed Hutson said he's confident that the community will pass a bond, 'if its presented correctly and they are ready. And they are ready to upgrade.'

The committee met at least weekly since Sept. 16 and held three public input sessions, including the Jan. 20 event.

“This committee engaged not only in these meetings — they did walking tours of every school in our district,” Heather Beck, the district’s superintendent, said Monday. “They read articles and white papers on school facilities. They were highly engaged as learners.”

A planning committee is not required by the state as part of the process of putting a bond on the ballot, according to Randy Miller, the district’s executive director of project management. But Miller said it is one way to increase community involvement.

Creating a 25-year plan is also not a requirement — the state only asks districts to look 10 years into the future. And that minimum is as far as the plan should have gone, parent Karen Delaney told the committee.

“Really, you should have kept it limited, so we would have more concrete information,” Delaney said.

But Miller said Monday that the 25-year timeline provides more flexibility for a facilities improvement process that will likely take years to finish. Board members and district officials said they will continue to seek public input, using not only meetings but also the Internet. An online forum will launch Feb. 10 on Thoughtexchange.com.

“We like to hear what you’re against,” board Chairwoman Liz Hartman said at Monday’s meeting, “but we really like to hear what you’re for.”

The 32 committee members are their own sample of the community and include teachers, parents and administrators from every K-12 Lake Oswego school, a student from each high school and representatives from the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation, the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, Special Services Parent Advisory Committee, the City of Lake Oswego, LO Citizens Action League, Lake Grove Business Association and the district’s classified employees union. REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck said the district should be aware that parents need to start thinking about college as soon as their child is in the seventh grade. That is why the district's long-term planning committee also looked at the relationship between education and buildings.

“The amount of commitment you’ve had to this is outstanding — the time involved, also the amount of nights you have spent away from your families,” Lisa Kolve told the committee during her public testimony at the Jan. 20 meeting. “This is a long process. We’re at the beginning of it, and … our goal is to have a bond and be successful at having a bond. As we go through this, look at this wonderful conversation we’ve started.”

Lake Oswego parent Jenna Schindler said she hopes the district fights hard to pass a bond and that she is proud of her community.

“How lucky are we that we live in this community,” she said, “and that there is so much passion in this room?”

Hutson said he feels confident the community wants the bond measure.

“People will pass a bond if it’s presented correctly and they are ready,” he said. “And they are ready to upgrade.”REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Randy Miller, the district's executive director of project management, is overseeing the bond process.

By Jillian Daley
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For more information about the Long Range Facility Plan, visit the school district’s website at bit.ly/1NvkS7X. The Thoughtexchange public input website will be available on Feb. 10 at losd.thoughtexchange.com/invitation. (Editor's Note: The link is not up and running yet.)