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Three years after moving within Oregon City, private school at Mt. Pleasant Elementary historic Concord building in Oak Grove

This article has been updated from its original version.

Marylhurst School is facing a deadline to leave the historic Mt. Pleasant Elementary School building to make way for the new Oregon City Police Department and Municipal Court.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Sheila Walker, Marylhurst head of school, checks out a moon lander created by students at the former Mt. Pleasant Elementary School building.Marylhurst is losing its lease in June 2019 so that the historic building can be demolished and the ground prepared for a new $20 million project approved by voters in September. As reported in 2015, Marylhurst leaders knew they would have to leave Mt. Pleasant eventually.

Although the leaders of Marylhurst have six months until their nearly 200 students have to leave the Mt. Pleasant building, the private school isn't waiting until next summer to look for leasing opportunities. There are only a few potential suitable sites to accommodate a large school within northern Clackamas County.

Jeanette Williams, Marylhurst board president, said arranging the move is a high priority for the school. It will take time to orchestrate volunteer movers, even if there's a move-in-ready space next summer, and the only available sites currently are in Clackamas light-industrial areas.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - The Mt. Pleasant Elementary School building, constructed in 1929 on Linn Avenue in Oregon City, is slated for demolition.Marylhurst's head of school Sheila Walker said the board has a real-estate agent diligently working on developing other options for the move. Marylhurst has already zeroed in on the Concord property in Oak Grove, which the North Clackamas district closed as an elementary school in 2014.

Concord would be the third former elementary school building occupied by Marylhurst. Built in 1936, the more than 44,000-square-foot Concord building would be the largest of the buildings ever occupied by Marylhurst.

Founded in 1972 at Marylhurst College, Marylhurst School left for the 21,00-square-foot Barclay School in 1985 and became an entity independent of the college. After 30 years at Barclay, Marylhurst moved up to the 40,000-square-foot Mt. Pleasant building in 2015.

Oak Grove Community Council Chair Baldwin van der Bijl has said that members of the community planning organization have so far been excited to get Marylhurst.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Marylhurst School teacher Pat Lammers teaches 4-year-olds who love to climb an indoor playstructure in her classroom."To put it bluntly, it's a great idea, and I think the positives outweigh the negative," he said. "It would be a school going into a school building, so there'll be limited remodeling and the transition should be pretty seamless."

Local business people are looking forward to an uptick in having the parents drive their children to school. On the way to school, parents might pick up a cup of coffee or go shopping.

As for the negative of Marylhurst's potential move to Concord, "If they move in, they'd like to have the whole building, so it would preclude other large uses of that building," van der Bijl said.

Limiting the county's options is also a concern of County Commissioner Paul Savas. When the school district compiled all of the public input what to do with the Concord building, various ideas were suggested, including a potential for a McMenamins brewpub into the Concord building.

"By telling people 'here's my idea,' we're limiting people's imaginations, and I want people to think out of the box," Savas said.

Savas has heard that many people involved in Oak Lodge-area community planning organizations would like Marylhurst to move into Concord. They've envisioned building a new Oak Lodge Library near the historic Concord School building, and there would still be room on the 6-acre site for a public park.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Marylhurst middle schoolers Jack Fry and Mariana Robins bring home pea plants they grew.While the county hopes to close on the purchase of the Concord property in January, Savas said it's a little early for serious talks with Marylhurst. Happy Valley has sued the county as the city takes over management of parks in the Happy Valley area from the county's parks district. Meanwhile, voters in Gladstone won't approve a new library until May at the earliest, leaving the future of the Oak Lodge Library in limbo.

"A whole bunch of things are coming together all at once," Savas said. "There are more ideas for Concord than there is room to do all of them."

Marylhurst board member Debbie Pearson acknowledged that while the school would be "thrilled" to move into the Concord building, it doesn't have any commitment in writing yet from the county.

"All the people we've met with are thrilled to think of another school group moving into that building," Pearson said. "But there's still a public process to go through."

Walker said that the idea of a "private school" can be a limiting concept she'd like Marylhurst and the community at large to overcome.

"As an institution we've always been looking to institutions to partner with that service children and families," Walker said. "We look at this as an opportunity to see who we can be."

Already at Marylhurst's Mt. Pleasant campus is a classroom reserved for Head Start students in low-income families. The Head Start on River Road is full and has been interested in more room. Marylhurst also reserves space for independent family counselors at the site, and Walker expects these public educational functions would continue at Concord if Marylhurst signed a lease there.

Marylhurst also has been attempting to expand its student body by adding grade levels. In 2012, on the 40th anniversary of its founding, Marylhurst Early Childhood Center expanded into Marylhurst School with the addition of primary grades for children throughout the Portland area. Classes rolled out for sixth graders in 2015-16, seventh grade in 2016-17 and the inaugural class of eighth graders will graduate in 2017-18. 

FILE PHOTO - In 2015, Marylhurst School departed from the historic Barclay building on 12th Street near downtown Oregon City, leaving the school district with the question of the building's next use.Marylhurst had been paying $3,500 a month in rent to Oregon City and could be expected to pay a similar amount to Clackamas County. The revenue stream for the county could be seen as another positive for moving the school to Concord. Even if the school ends up in a local light-industrial area, Marylhurst plans to make the most of it.

"We have a really really creative faculty that can make something out of nothing," Walker said.

Marylhurst has a long-term goal to own its own building within a five-mile radius of downtown Oregon City, ideally in a building between the size of Barclay and Mt. Pleasant.

Learn more

The Oak Grove Community Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec 6, at the Performing Arts Center at Rose Villa, 13505 S.E. River Road.

Topics will include a presentation from Sheila Walker, head of Marylhurst School, on the interest in moving into Concord School, and an update on Clackamas County libraries from Commissioner Paul Savas.

Correction

This article has been updated to note that Marylhurst won't lose its least on Mt. Pleasant until June 2019. The school won't be forced to move until next summer. We apologize that the earlier version of this article online had given the incorrect date.

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