School board and administrators say it's the best option available

Before the Lake Oswego School District Board approved moving the preschool and kindergarten language immersion classes from one school to another, the superintendent promised to seek solutions to parents’ potential transportation woes.

The board on Tuesday unanimously voted to shift the kindergarten and preschool Spanish immersion programs from Lake Grove Elementary School to River Grove Elementary School, at least for next school year. The board plans to add a two-classroom portable building at River Grove to accommodate the additional students.

The change separates the early childhood exploratory language immersion classes from the program for older children, a step that has upset some families. Students in the language immersion program, which launched in 2009, engage in typical learning activities, but they’re taught in another language.

Eleven families have children enrolled in either the pre-K or kindergarten immersion program next fall and children in the first-, second- or third-grade immersion program, according to school district staff. The move means these families might have to make an extra trip between Lake Grove and River Grove schools.

“We will need to look at strategies to help these families,” said Superintendent Bill Korach.

David Dorr, who testified before the board, said after the meeting that his family moved to Lake Oswego for the schools. Dorr also said he wishes someone had notified him that the program was to be relocated before he submitted an application for his 5-year-old daughter to enroll this fall.

“We, as a working family, can’t keep her enrolled because they are moving the program from the most central school to a school at the very edge of the district, and our commute time will double,” Dorr said in a Tuesday email.

He was the only member of the public to speak before the board about the issue. Advocates for World Languages at Lake Oswego School District chairwoman Kirsten Carnese and vice chairwoman Nayibe Donavan sent an email to fellow language immersion advocates saying the parent group had spoken with Korach.

“Considering that all known ideas have been explored, we are not encouraging testimony for tomorrow’s meeting,” the Advocates for World Languages email said.

Community response and a desire for more information spurred the school board to hold off on a decision on the issue at its March meeting and to ask staff to look at other options and further discuss the move with the community.

Korach told the board this week that the proposal to move the pre-K and kindergarten classes is still the district’s best option. The staff report said “the administration’s recommendation is based on the fundamental reality that the school board has previously approved the movement of the language immersion program to the south side as soon as possible, as well as the family and program impact on Lake Grove Elementary.”

Board member Bob Barman said earlier this week that the problem is space and money. Last fall, a Lake Oswego fire marshal said a regular pre-K class at Lake Grove should not be used next year because of safety concerns over small children using stairs for the upstairs room. Next year’s incoming Lake Grove third- and fourth-grade English-only class is expected to be large, and the program is slated to grow. First- and second-grade language immersion classes are available this year at Lake Grove, and third grade will be added to the program next year.

Siting a portable at River Grove costs $25,000 to $30,000, compared to $165,000 to $279,00 at Lake Grove. River Grove has the necessary permits and infrastructure to add the portables. It already installed one to accommodate the students who moved in after Bryant Elementary School closed last year, Barman said. It would cost less than $30,000 annually to lease the portable at River Grove, said Finance Director Stuart Ketzler.

Barman said the future location of the program hinges on a real estate study to assess the value of school buildings, which will influence the school board’s decisions on which schools to operate.

“We came to the best solution,” Barman said.

Also at the meeting, the school district discussed:

  • The search for a superintendent to replace Korach, who retires next year: The public can share their views on the issue at community forums at 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the city’s West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way.

  • An update on Scenario B: Ketzler announced that the reconfiguration plan known as Scenario B is on target to save $1.8 million this fiscal year and is expected to save $2.1 million next fiscal year. Three elementary schools were closed and 32 to 35 positions were cut under Scenario B, which aimed to address a budget shortfall. Many staffers did not lose their jobs because others took early retirement.

  • Changes to the capital projects lists this year: An additional $150,000 was added to the preliminary estimate of June 2014 work on the Lakeridge stadium upgrades. The total cost of capital improvement projects to be supported with the general fund this year is less than $700,000.

  • A request on behalf of a Lake Oswego High School student: A student who suffered a head injury requested a waiver to physical education classes on account of migraines. The board approved the request.

    Student transfers

    Lake Oswego School Board received an update Tuesday on state legislation on transfer students and an update on open enrollment applications.

    Legislators are considering House Bill 2748, which, as introduced, would have eliminated tuition for all students who transfer from other districts. But Riverdale School District, which has the most transfer students in the Portland area, fought the bill, said Lake Oswego School District Communications Director Nancy Duin. Legislators, who had a committee work session on the bill on Wednesday, now are considering allowing tuition except for students on the free or reduced lunch program, who the state would support. Students qualify for the program based on family income.

    This year, the school board offered 150 open enrollment spots for new students from sixth to 10th grades next year and got an update this week on who took them. All school districts in the state were allowed to offer open enrollment by state law this school year. Last school year, Lake Oswego offered 28 slots at Lakeridge High School for freshmen and an additional 20 slots at either school for students living in the city boundaries but not the school district boundaries, Duin said. Open enrollment slots were offered this school year at Lakeridge high and junior high schools only, not Lake Oswego high and junior high schools. Keeping it Lakeridge-only is intended to achieve enrollment balance as the south side of Oswego Lake has fewer students.

    Thirteen students submitted applications to Lakeridge Junior High from three schools districts: seven from Portland, two from Sherwood and four from Tigard-Tualatin. Sixteen applied to Lakeridge High: six from Portland, one from Sherwood and nine from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. School districts began offering open enrollment last year.

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