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Templeton Elementary celebrates 50 years, but faces uncertain future

PHOTO COURTESY TEMPLETON ELEMENTARY - Staff and students at Templeton Elementary School pose for a photo to commemorate the school's 50th birthdayFifty years ago this week, third grader Vickie Cox walked into the new James Templeton Elementary School in Tigard and thought it was the best school she’d ever seen.

Five decades later, she still does.

On Tuesday, staff and students gathered outside the school for an all-school photo to commemorate Templeton Elementary’s 50th birthday.

Vickie Cox — now Vickie Nasman — was there. Nasman has spent her life at Templeton, first as a student, then as a parent and for the last 29 years as an instructional assistant for special education.

“A lot of people refer to me as Ms. Templeton,” she said. “I’ve been here forever.”

PHOTO TTSD - Templeton Elementary School, as it looked when it opened on Valentines Day 1966.Opened on Valentine’s Day in 1966, Templeton Elementary is the oldest school still in service in the Tigard-Tualatin School District. Named after former district principal James Templeton, the school has been always been a focal point and gathering space for the community, Nasman said.

Nasman grew up near the school’s site and was one of the first students to attend the school.

“The school was built in basically my backyard,” she said.

The school was much smaller then, teaching first through sixth grade students.

“There was no gymnasium. The cafeteria doubled as a gym,” she said. “We didn’t have all the fancy play structures and the technology has changed, of course.”

Nasman’s mother was the school’s secretary for nearly 30 years. Nasman’s children attended the school, and she returned as a volunteer in 1985 and was eventually hired on full-time in 1987.

“I’ve had someone in that school since the day it opened,” she said.

Nasman said she can’t imagine spending her life anywhere else.

“It always felt like home to me,” she said. “My mom retired and my daughter has grown, but it always felt like home.”

On Tuesday, students ate cake, sang “Happy Birthday” to the school and posed for an all-school photograph to commemorate the school’s birthday.

Welcome and caring place

Tigard has changed a lot in the last 50 years. It’s exploded from about 6,000 residents in 1970 to more than 50,000 today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but Nasman said Templeton has never lost that feeling of togetherness.

“It’s a great community school, and that’s never changed,” she said. “It’s always had that feeling of community. Why would I go anywhere else?”

That’s not to say that Templeton hasn’t gone through periods of change itself. Over the last decade, demographics around the school have transformed from one of the district’s more affluent areas to one of its poorest.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Vickie Nasman was one of Templeton Elementarys first students and has spent the last 30 years working with special ed students at the school.

When Todd Robson, who has been principal at the school since 2007, first came to the district nine years ago, less than a quarter of Templeton’s students were on free or reduced lunch. Today, that number has grown to more than half the school.

“We fight the good fight every day,” Robson said. “What has been exciting is the work around leveling the playing field for all of our kids. We’re realizing that we have to reach out and develop relationships and connect with families in ways we haven’t before. It’s exciting and a great challenge. We’ve really gone after it.”

That dedication says a lot about the school, Nasman said. It’s not uncommon for staff and teachers at the school to spend their careers at Templeton.

“They come here on their first day as teachers, and they stay until they retire,” she said. “Several people have done that. I love the kids. ... I’ll stay here until I retire.”

Robson, who previously spent 17 years working in the Beaverton School District, said he feels it, too.

“I’ve never been with a more caring group of people, who really focus on the kids,” he said. “Even when things get hard, with budget cuts or contract negotiations, people aren’t in my office whining or complaining. Failure isn’t an option for them, and they work really hard for the kids. That really is our culture here. This is one of the most welcoming and caring places I’ve ever seen.”

PHOTO TTSD - Templeton Elementary School students in 1966.

A new Templeton Elementary?

But change is in the air for Templeton. As the oldest active school in the district, school officials are planning to place a bond measure before voters this fall that would rebuild Templeton Elementary, according to Susan Stark Haydon, a district spokeswoman.

“It’s crumbling with age,” Nasman said. “To me, (rebuilding the school) would be great, because we need it for our kids, and it would be nice to have a few new bells and whistles, but the thought of tearing it down, it puts a tear in my eye.”

Over the last several years, the district has worked to replace its older school buildings.

One of the biggest changes in store for a new Templeton Elementary, Stark Haydon said, would be to reconfigure how classrooms are set up.

“Times were different then,” Stark Haydon said. “All of the classrooms open to the outside.”

When it was first built in the 1960s, that was seen as a great way for kids to get outside and play. Now, it’s considered a safety hazard, Stark Haydon said.

The school board has yet to decide whether to send the bond to voters, but school officials expect that decision to be made later this year.

Should voters approve the bond, part of the school will likely remain, Robson said, including the front offices and gymnasium.

Whether a new Templeton is built or not, Nasman said that the next 50 years at the school will be all about building relationships.

“I want it to always keep that community feeling,” she said. “We have the best parent support groups ... and I don’t want that to change. I hope parents continue with their volunteerism and continue with their support. That’s really what makes Templeton the school that it is.”

By Geoff Pursinger
Assistant Editor
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