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'LO Schools community: We must work together'

The past month I have received hundreds of emails and phone calls lobbying for competing projects. Many of the letters present an either/or proposition: “Please invest in a cover for Lakeridge so that parents, students and grandparents can enjoy an athletic event,” or “Please save those dollars and invest in our aging elementary facilities.”

How do we reconcile these competing interests?

The board voted 5-0 to support the Lakeridge stadium project with several caveats. We are asking the Lakeridge community to begin the process of raising at least $500,000 to underwrite the facility. This amount is similar to the amount raised by the LOHS community when their stadium cover was upgraded. We have asked for additional time to figure out how we will fund this project. There is an honest difference of opinion among board members as to how the cover should be funded and the timeframe, but we are unanimous that this is an important project not only for Lakeridge, but for our community.

The delay makes sense to me as we have important decisions to address at the elementary and junior high level. We need to figure out which six elementary schools are our “keeper” facilities and which of the remaining facilities will be available for sale. The reason we should be able to divest from a school or two is because we moved our sixth-graders to the junior high schools three years ago. In my opinion we need to use the money from the closed schools to enhance and repair the remaining facilities.

We currently do not have enough classroom space at our six elementary schools to house full-day kindergarten and/or to un-blend. Un-blending is a high priority for many of our elementary teachers. Even if we don’t un-blend we need to take the space requirement into consideration before we mothball a school. Dr. Jonnie Shobaki, director of elementary education, stated at our April 8 board meeting that we have 120 classrooms today. If we want to un-blend and add full day kindergarten, we will need 131 classrooms. We clearly need to add classroom space at our remaining schools.

I received an important call from a constituent who gave me some excellent advice: “Bob your responsibility is to look 15 years ahead and make sure we have the facilities and programs for a 21st-century education. You do not want to look back in 15 years and say you sold or closed a facility, or did not see the educational needs of today’s newborns.”

That advice is at the forefront of my mind as we figure out our next steps. We need to make sure we can house all the kids in the six schools. We need to make sure we have a balanced K—12 system. It would be irresponsible to invest in a school that is not a “long-term” keeper school. Our community needs to work together and stop pitting one group against another. We need to turn the temperature down.

Our board, PTOs and our school communities must work together, or else we will never move forward. We are all Lake Oswegans who have a deep commitment to education and the importance of making sure every single student gets the best education possible. Let’s join together for a greater and stronger district. We can figure this out!

Bob Barman is a member of the Lake Oswego School Board.



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