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It's official: Gresham's Open School is open

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OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gov. Kate Brown addresses the crowd of students and education community members at the dedication of the college-prep alternative school, which welcomed its first students this fall. When Oregon Gov. Kate Brown officially dedicated Open School East in Gresham on Tuesday morning, she likened education to an elevator that enables everyone to rise.

Open School is “a very important part of a seamless education system” that takes students from cradle to career, Brown said.

Open School East, a college-prep, alternative school for at-risk students, ushered the first students into the new building, located at 16570 S.E. Oak St., this fall. The welcoming, airy structure is on a community campus that also includes a soon-to-be-completed Boys & Girls Club.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Gov. Kate Brown chats with students at the dedication of Open School East in Gresham. The school is designed for students who have struggled to succeed in regular public school.

Brown attended the groundbreaking for Open School a year earlier and came back Tuesday, Nov. 1, to see the finished product. She joked and chatted with students before and after her short remarks.

Riffing on Open School’s motto, “We advocate greatness,” Brown told the students, “I see greatness in every single one of you.”

Before Brown spoke, a student and teacher led the crowd in the affirmative In “Lak’Ech” poem by Luis Valdez, which Open School students say every morning before school begins. It reminds everyone, “If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.”

Principal Matt Ross told the crowd that preparing students for college is “a core piece of our vision.” He added that Open School not only wants to prepare students for college, but also aims to prepare students to succeed in college, graduate and go on to meaningful careers.

The 135 students in grades seven through nine take advantage of smaller classes, two teachers in each room and wrap-around social services in order to succeed.

Open School will eventually house 270 students and go through grade 12.

Open School East draws students from Centennial, Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds, David Douglas, Parkrose and Portland Public school districts. It is organized as a state-designated alternative school and is not a charter school.

About 55 percent of Open School East students are children of color and about 84 percent live in poverty. East has a middle school partner in Open School North in North Portland. Many students are way behind academically when they come to Open School and Ross said students advance two grade levels in math and reading in the first year they come to the school.

Open School has a long history in the Portland area dating back to the 1970s. Formerly called Open Meadow School, it has had multiple iterations.

The stylish new building will use the Boys & Girls Club gym and kitchen when that building is complete. OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Rayanna Grant, an Open School eighth-grader, reads a poem she wrote.