Laughter rings through schoolyards during events planned to mark school closures
by: Vern Uyetake, Gabriella Dover, left, and Kiersten Weiler enjoy dancing among a flurry of soap bubbles at last Friday's Bryant Palooza.

As of today, plans set forth by the Lake Oswego School Board become harsh reality:

Uplands Elementary School will close, with students being dispersed between Oak Creek and Forest Hills elementary schools next fall. Bryant Elementary will close as an elementary school but remain open to house sixth-grade students attending Lakeridge Junior High in the fall. Bryant students will be moved to River Grove and Westridge schools. At both schools, families and school administrators have worked to soften the transition, focusing on the positive aspects of the changes.

Uplands Elementary administrators extended an invitation to present and former students and their families, along with teachers and staff members and neighbors, to attend the school's 50th anniversary on June 7, and, by the crowded hallways and playground, it appeared many accepted. Principal Carol Whitten was pleased with the turnout and the high level of excitement about the event.

'This is wonderful that so many people have come out to pay tribute,' Whitten said. 'It's a great showing, and so many past teachers and staff members came. The PTA and staff have planned so many activities. It took lots of work and I am very pleased.'

Many honored guests were present to share their memories of Uplands, including Val Francis, who served as secretary for the school from 1986 to 2009 and had the distinction of working under six principals during those 23 years.

'You know, I am just the happiest seeing the kids,' Francis said.

In the library, yearbooks and other memorabilia were on display, providing former students an opportunity to look back at their elementary school experience. In another classroom, school videos, a project spearheaded by teacher Susan Ford, were being shown.

'Uplands has a closeness, a warm feeling to it,' said Kyle Cline, who graduated from Lake Oswego High School the next evening. 'I remember getting to invite someone to eat lunch with you at your desk.'

He and fellow classmates Trenton Bilodeaux, Wyatt Hayden, Jacobi Gonzales and Sam Fricke said they enjoyed reminiscing about the Uplands traditions of field day and jogathon.

To fuel the fun, parent volunteers were serving pizza in the gym, which Ben Altman, Micahel Murray and Marley Kott enjoyed. They shared some thoughts on their time at Uplands and what was ahead for them between bites.

'Uplands has a cheery atmosphere,' Altman said. 'But this is a new beginning, a fresh page.'

The boys, who will be fifth-graders at Oak Creek next fall, figure they will have made twice as many friends by the time they get to junior high than if they continued to attend Uplands. They were looking forward to working in Oak Creek's science lab and using its zip line.

You could follow the shrieks of laughter to the dunk tank, bounce house and other activities on the playground.

But even with all the fun, the tender feelings still surfaced, as illustrated by third-grader Karlee Zurcher's poem to be included in the time capsule:

'Just way more than an ordinary school,

Just right for me.

All the school aren't the same

For Uplands will always be in mind.'

The following evening, Bryant Elementary held its Bryant Palooza, which included student musical performances, face painting and some unexpected fun.

'We had a wonderful time celebrating Bryant last Friday night,' Principal Dan Sterling said. 'After an all-school music performance on Waluga's stage, we all walked back over to Bryant to enjoy the big party, which included a DJ, food from local restaurant vendors, face painting, inflatables, a photo booth and more. Our closing ceremony featured some students reading their own compositions about what they most love about Bryant. Then we all participated in a candle-lighting ceremony, symbolizing our unity one last time. Students and a parent serenaded us during this touching observance. Bryant's staff surprised everyone with a flash mob dance routine that brought the house down, followed by an even more spectacular surprise flash mob dance carried out by the fifth- and sixth-graders! Staff and students spent time learning and rehearsing their respective dance routines in secret in order to make a really big splash on the evening of the Palooza!'

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