The committee will take a break from meeting for now

Conversation continues about the possibility of a consolidated Oregon Trail School District middle school housed in the soon-to-be-former Sandy High School.

The Facility Task Force, the committee charged with assessing building and program needs, will take a temporary break from meeting until a feasibility study about retrofitting the old high school to accommodate a middle school is completed.

From the study, the committee members will determine whether their middle school plan has any fatal flaws, and whether they're ready to recommend a plan to the school board in June.

Last Thursday's Task Force meeting featured less public comment and mostly focused on a Portland State University population study, discussion about research endorsing large versus small schools and ideas of how to coordinate middle school sports schedules.

Tim Belanger, the district's business director, presented information about the population study, stating that the district predicts slower growth over the next 10 years than it anticipated.

The enrollment forecasts for 2012-13 to 2021-22 are available on the district website under the Facility Task Force tab.

Several Task Force members and residents said they still hadn't seen enough evidence to show that a large school would be preferable to the smaller schools.

'The majority of research I've been seeing is for small schools,' said Elyse Izer, a district parent and Task Force member whose comments were echoed by several other parents.

Izer distributed copies of her idea to change the old high school into a unified junior high school with seventh and eighth grades.

In her plan, Cedar Ridge Middle School would switch to a fifth- and sixth-grade school, Welches would switch to K-6 and Boring would be emptied for office space.

Matt Gable, a district parent, said that after many conversations, he was coming around to the idea of a consolidated school but had lingering concerns of how it would affect children socially.

'Sixth grade is when things comes to a head,' Gable said. 'There are such huge changes physically and mentally. After throwing them into this environment, is it possible to keep sixth grade almost as a stand-alone separate school to build community for those students? If that's the case, I think we could see some really big benefits down the road.'

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