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The award winning student newspaper of Lake Oswego High School

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The award winning student newspaper of Lake Oswego High School

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Potential reconstruction of LOSD schools sparks debate

As a result of several bond measures, multiple Lake Oswego District schools have faced renovations and ongoing discussions of reconstruction. The reconstruction of River Grove Elementary, in particular, began in June 2022 and is now officially completed and open for the new 2024 school year starting in the fall.

The Lake Oswego Junior High (LOJ) site project, funded by the 2021 bond program, begins construction this summer and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2026. Similar to that of Lakeridge Middle School, the main focus of the reconstruction is to improve the building in terms of its energy efficiency and sustainability. According to the project information shared by the school district, “site circulation will be enhanced with vehicle and pedestrian access, along with new outdoor learning spaces.” Gabriel Acosta, the senior project manager, states that “The new building will be two stories and built to current standards for safety, security, seismic resiliency and will target Energy Trust of Oregon’s Path-To-Net-Zero.  Some of the new features of the project include a secure courtyard, turf field, covered play and a bridge connecting the two wings of the school.”

While the reconstruction at LOJ is already set in place, the school board has also been debating the potential demolition of Lake Grove Elementary, receiving heavy backlash and engagement from the LOSD parent community. On May 20 and 22, the school board met and discussed the future of the Lake Grove Elementary facility, with the possibility of replacing it with a community center in the Lake Grove Village Center Urban Renewal District. 

During these public sessions, the Long Range Facility Plan (LRFP) Committee presented three main recommendations to the school board. Firstly, to “bring all district facilities to 21st Century standards in the last phase of the district’s three-phased capital bond improvement program” by reconstructing Forest Hills Elementary, demolishing Lake Grove Elementary, investing in STEM and CTE programs and additional capital improvements. Secondly, “to undertake a feasibility study encompassing a constructability review, potential partnership interest evaluation, and cost/benefit analysis of [said] projects” through the closing of Lake Grove Elementary and the reopening of Uplands Elementary along with several assessments of the facilities and programs at the Palisades World Language School and district-wide departments. The committee’s third and final recommendation to the board was to “review and modify the LRFP recommendations based on findings and community input and adopt an updated LRFP,” along with “[establishing] a Bond Development Committee to draft a bond proposal for district voters’ consideration in 2025.”

Built in 1949, Lake Grove Elementary is one of the oldest buildings in the school district, worsened by severe damage from the recent ice storms. The land on which the facility is located offers significant financial incentives to generate revenue by leasing it to the city, effectively closing Lake Grove, and utilizing the area for alternative pursuits such as an extension of the library or retail development. Aside from its land value, Lake Grove Elementary also stands out from the rest of the LOSD schools in terms of demographics, as it serves the second largest number of minority students in the district, and one in five students has an IEP (individualized education plan).

According to the Long Range Facility Plan, “Lake Grove’s enrollment was the lowest” in the district, “with 301 students” in 2021. In comparison to the other elementary schools, Lake Grove also has the second-highest percentage of school bus ridership. The district includes within the plan that “LOSD prioritizes our students’ needs, and the board will make the best decisions for our learning community. Any potential partnerships, such as with the City for a library, will be considered only after determining the optimal locations for our elementary schools. The City had notified the district of its interest in a potential new community center/library at the Lake Grove site, which the superintendent shared publicly during her update at the school board meeting on February 20, 2024.”

Jennifer Manske, a parent of an LOSD student and resident of the Waluga neighborhood, stated, “Demolishing Lake Grove Elementary without an intent to rebuild would not only be denying the children of Lake Grove Village a local, walkable school —- it would be destroying an integral part of our town’s history and revoking the city’s commitment to truly supporting underserved families who are soon to reside in the new multifamily, low-income housing on Boones Ferry. This decision also requires bussing students to Uplands, an inferior school site based on several factors, such as size, environmental concerns, and age. The good news — the upcoming bond renewal has sufficient funding to rebuild Lake Grove Elementary to meet modern school standards without raising taxes and possibly accommodating other projects desired by the city and the district.”

The Save Lake Grove coalition has remained incredibly active in the community as of late, testifying at school board meetings and organizing parades in front of Lake Grove Elementary to advocate for the survival of the school. “My goal is serving as another liaison between our fantastic Save Lake Grove coalition of parents and members of my neighborhood to continue increasing awareness of the discussion around LGE,” Manske continued. “I have developed and distributed information pamphlets to approximately 125 homes in the area to help broaden the conversation to those who may have limited internet access or prefer written updates. I have also submitted in-person and written testimony in support of maintaining our local school, as well as attended City Council, Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFP) and school board meetings. We are incredibly lucky to have such an intelligent, ambitious group of community members dedicated to this cause. I believe awareness and efforts across all of Lake Oswego will continue to grow to preserve our historic school.”

Lindsey Boccia, a parent of a Lake Grove Elementary student and a resident of the Lake Forest neighborhood, criticized the limited discussions at school board meetings pertaining to the future of Lake Grove. “The listening sessions are being perceived as performative,” she said. “There’s no dialogue allowed and time has been cut short. I’m sure it’s awful as a board to sit there and have to listen to people who are unhappy with the decisions being made and how we got here in the first place… I get that… But I really would love back-and-forth dialogue. I think there are a lot of different voices and perspectives that represent the community and how we, as a whole town, will be impacted by any decision to close Lake Grove. And our school board are elected officials chosen to represent this community and those voices and perspectives deserve to be heard and acknowledged.”

Although the school board has yet to reach a finalized decision about the demolition of Lake Grove, the input and action from community residents remain pivotal to the discussion. Manske concluded, “You, as a current student and future leader of this city, country and our world have so much opportunity for positive influence and holding our society accountable.” 

The board will continue to consider the project at the upcoming board meeting on June 3 at 6 p.m., where public testimony will be open. The board is currently scheduled to take action on the Long Range Facility Plan’s recommendations on June 17, possibly subject to targeted additional analysis.

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