by: VERN UYETAKE - Westridge Elementary School parent club members Chris Barhyte and Analeis Weidlich with the new school sign they helped install.The Lake Oswego School District has recently seen a lot of changes. In the last two years, three elementary schools — Palisades, Bryant and Uplands — were closed in an effort to conserve financial resources. As a result, many former students of Palisades and most former Bryant students were consolidated into Westridge Elementary School.

What happened to those students? The answer lies with those who know them best — their parents.

Analeis Weidlich and Chris Barhyte are the new president and vice president, respectively, of the Westridge Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO).

“The past PTSO president called and basically begged me,” Weidlich said. “No one had stepped up yet.”

Weidlich consulted with Barhyte, her neighbor and former Tualatin City Council member, and together they decided to take on the challenge of leading parents in a brave new Westridge world, a challenge they said has been well worth it.

“It’s amazing the different things it does,” Barhyte said of the PTSO. “It funds curriculum enrichment; it funds the copy machine; it just funds a lot of different things.”

“What the district doesn’t provide, we pick up everything else, from field trips to curricular enrichment to technology,” Weidlich said.

Weidlich said the PTSO has been responsible for outfitting Westridge with an assortment of Apple technology, including 120 iPads for students plus one per teacher for curriculum design as well as Apple TV in all of Westridge’s classrooms.

“The teachers and the administration ... if they had their way, every child in our school would have an iPad,” Weidlich said.

“The neat thing is ... the kids are excited about the iPads and then we’re hearing from parents their kids are excited. The technology side is just exciting,” Barhyte said.

This school spirit has not come easy.

“We’ve been hit the worst with the school closures,” Weidlich said. “For two years in a row we’ve had incoming kids. ... Palisades got very little notice when their school closed and so they came in really just jilted.”

The additional influx of students from Bryant this year, however, marked the beginning of a new chapter at Westridge.

“Bryant brought in a whole new attitude,” Weidlich said. “They were just ready to be settled.”

“Closure is done now,” Barhyte said. “We chose to, this year, work on community building and the social side of our school because morale was very bad last year.”

Thanks to the PTSO, Westridge is improving both inside and out.

“Palisades had a new playground installed recently and Bryant did also. Westridge needs an upgrade, so we’re in the process of designing it and kicking off the fundraising to do playground improvement,” Barhyte said.

“We tried to bring in a bit of both schools and mix with what did work at Westridge,” Weidlich said, “and make it a unique thing to all three schools.”

Such events include Bryant’s disco bingo, Palisades’ silly sock hop run and in August, an event new to all three schools: a movie in the park night attended by upwards of 400 people.

In addition to the passion demonstrated by all teachers, Barhyte and Weidlich say the clear highlight of Westridge is their peers.

“We have pretty progressive parents and they embrace a lot of these newer things,” Weidlich said. “Even when the chips are down, they always do rally.”

“I came from another district, and it’s the amount of parent involvement. That’s what the difference is in Westridge,” Barhyte said. “The more parent involvement you have, the better the outcomes.”

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