Groundbreaking officially kicks off armory renovation

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: KEITH CHENG - Park Academy students stand near the schools founder, Piper Park, while she speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for the schools new site on Sunday.Park Academy officials’ plans to renovate the former Oregon National Guard Armory and relocate there are progressing.

School officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Sunday for the project, which includes adding commons areas, classrooms and a stage and putting in artificial grass field and a learning garden in the backyard. The overhaul of the 23,000-square-foot building on South Shore Boulevard in Lake Oswego is underway with interior wall demolition and the removal of old windows.

Having a larger school built to suit students’ needs “is incredibly exciting, and it’s going to make a world of difference for our students,” said Laura Marie Milewski, the academy’s capital campaign director and development associate.

Park Academy, a nonprofit prep school set behind Marylhurst University, is a school for students who have language-based learning differences, which include dyslexia as well as visual and auditory processing and executive-functioning (organizational) challenges.

The new space will have room for 120 students and is designed for the students it serves. The garden is viewed as a place for students to decompress, and there will be several private rooms for one-on-one tutoring.

The school currently is composed of three modular buildings, which house 58 students in grades four through 12. The site is best suited for 50 children, and there’s a growing wait list, Milewski said. The school began with 15 students when it was founded in 2005.

The school currently has 18 employees, 12 of whom are teachers. There also are 82 volunteers. Park Academy will hire more teachers for the expanded site as the student body increases, and the maximum ratio will be 15 students per teacher.

“Many classes will be much smaller — that’s our absolute max,” Milewski said.

Lisa Alleyne said her son, Marcus, a third-year student at Park Academy, is glad to see his school grow because it means he can make more friends.

“Going to a school that is, size-wise, closer to a traditional school, it just takes away one more element of differentness,” Alleyne said.

Whatever its size, she loves the school that gave her once-bullied son his confidence back.

“When you have a kid who went from ‘mom, I’m so dumb’ to a kid who says ‘I’ve got dreams and I’m going to be somebody,’ you know it’s a good place,” Alleyne said.

The school mostly is funded through tuition. Donations and grants are supporting the armory’s $8 million capital campaign project. Funds support the renovation, site development, the property purchase and operations costs.

The project is on schedule with Park Academy classes slated to begin in fall 2014.

School officials bought the armory from the Oregon Military Department for $2.35 million. The armory-to-school transformation has garnered widespread community attention with the groundbreaking attracting about 100 people, including Clackamas County commissioners and Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson. Johnson said police and fire officials will support the school in any way they can, including tutoring the children.

“Park Academy adds a much needed asset to the community that can have a significant impact on the reading and language skills of dyslexic kids,” he said.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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