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Ready, set, GO! Bridgeport Elementary anticipates running track

Parent volunteer Leah Findtner says project is '100%' funded by grants, donations.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Leah Findtner, a parent volunteer who heads the running club at Bridgeport Elementary School, stands where a track will be constructed on the soccer field behind the school.The grants have been awarded, the money has been raised and the contractor has been hired.

Now all that's left — give or take a city permit or a few — is for the ?-mile track around the soccer field at Bridgeport Elementary School to be built.

“It's really exciting,” said Principal Debbie Ebert on Tuesday morning. “We actually got our last bit of money yesterday from Nike.”

Bridgeport and its Parent Teacher Organization have raising money to build the track for about a year now. The project has been spearheaded by Leah Findtner, a Bridgeport parent who heads up its after-school running club.

“We've seen a need for running, and running is so beneficial — and walking — and just wanting to instill a love for activity, and specifically running, with our young kids and getting them active,” she explained. “It helps them in the classroom, it helps them in their life, and it helps just with life skills. … There's studies on how running and activity improves social behavior and academic performance.”

Work is scheduled to take place over the summer, with Tualatin-based Beynon Sports Surfaces as the contractor. Findtner said Beynon submitted a “very generous” bid of about $85,000 to build the track.

“They're giving us as good of a deal as we can get,” she said.

COURTESY OF LEAH FINDTNER - A rendering shows what the track planned for Bridgeport Elementary School might look like with students running on it.Along with Nike Inc., which provided a $20,000 grant for the project, other major donors include The Reser Family Foundation, the Rotary Club of Tualatin, MDU Resources Group Inc., Bonzi, the Tualatin Citizen Involvement Organization and The Oregon Clinic Gastroenterology - South. Parents and other community members have also chipped in, Ebert said. The track is being paid for by "100 percent" grants and donations, Findtner said.

The project is technically being managed by the Bridgeport PTO, which is a nonprofit organization and not a public agency, although Findtner said it has the support of the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Ebert said the track will be beneficial to students.

“The track project gives us the ability to have running club during recess,” she said. “We also have an annual fun run that will be really exciting to have a track for.”

But there's also a broader benefit, which Ebert suggested was the hook for groups like the Tualatin Rotary to donate.

“I think just the community piece is huge, too,” she said. “There's really nowhere to go around that neighborhood to have a track like that.”

Bridgeport will be the first public elementary school in Tualatin to have its own track.

“We want the community to use it, during non-school hours,” said Findtner. “During school hours, it is primarily used for our kids, but when soccer's not in session, we want parents, families — anyone can use it. And we want them to use it, too.”

As part of the project, Bridgeport's uneven soccer field will also be “leveled off,” Findtner said.

While the track will be a major improvement to Bridgeport's campus, the school and PTO aren't planning to stop there. They are currently raising money in the hopes of building a community garden along one side of the school, in partnership with the Tualatin-based nonprofit Neighbors Nourishing Communities. Findtner suggested that garden could help feed low-income families in the school community. More than half of Bridgeport's students qualify for a free or reduced lunch, she noted.