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District identifies capital improvements

Board also looks at school safety and open enrollment


The West Linn-Wilsonville School Board discussed potential projects that could be funded by a new capital bond during its regular meeting Feb. 3.

Before deciding whether to ask voters to approve a new bond, however, the board will give the community a chance to learn about potential projects and to voice opinions on the matter. That opportunity will come at a bond summit scheduled for Feb. 22.

“Planning and preparation for the bond summit is well underway,” Superintendent Bill Rhoades told the board. “We’re developing that list of participants, and the invitation has gone out.”

Rhoades said that he and other district officials still were working on plans for that day.

“While we’ve done this before, it’s always new. The subject matter will be new,” Tim Woodley, director of operations, said. “There will be speakers to give background on the long-range plan and presentations of those projects we’ve identified” as potential capital improvement opportunities. by: FILE PHOTO - Arts and Technology High School could find a new and permanent home if the school board decides to put a capital bond in front of voters this year. The school currently operates in a leased facility on Town Center Loop in Wilsonville.

Woodley presented a list of capital improvement projects the long-range planning committee has already identified. Tops on the list are:

A new middle school in Wilsonville. The district owns property suitable for construction of a middle school and a primary school. Wilsonville’s middle school, Inza R. Wood, is over capacity and relying on portable classrooms.

A replacement primary school in West Linn. The oldest school building in the district, Sunset, has been identified as needing replacement due to the size and scope of the structural upgrades the existing building would require.

A permanent facility for Arts and Technology High School. The alternative school currently leases space on Town Center Loop in Wilsonville.

The current bond, passed in 2008, will expire at the end of the school year. It funded the construction of two new primary schools, Trillium Creek in West Linn and Lowrie in Wilsonville. Other capital improvements included construction or remodeling of libraries and kitchens at existing schools, athletic field improvements, district-wide technology investments and the renovation of the district administration building on Stafford Road.

Woodley said fewer than 12 capital projects remain to be completed, and he predicted some reserves as the bond closes, although he characterized those reserves as “minor.”

Parents' role in student safety

WoodleyWoodley also presented the board with an update on student security. His presentation was preceded by comments from an audience member who had met previously with Woodley to voice her concerns. Ginger Fitch urged Woodley and the school board to add parents as partners in school safety protocols.

“Parents are meaningful community partners,” Fitch said. “We close the circle of support around school safety.”

A parent at Lowrie Primary School, Fitch said parents need to be knowledgeable about school safety procedures so they can assist during an emergency when they are at the school volunteering, for example.

“Let parents be knowledgeable. Let parents be helpful. Let parents be part of it,” Fitch said. “How are we helping parents stay safe themselves and help children stay safe?”

During his safety presentation, Woodley described “circles of support” that ensure safety at school facilities. Properly trained staff, combined with district support, facilities designed for safety and adequate funding from the school board form the base of support, he said, and he acknowledged that parents, too, have a role to play.

Woodley highlighted communication with Clackamas County officials and first responders such as Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue as one area that has seen improvement.

“They have copies of building floor plans,” he said. “They’re in the county database, so that every responding emergency vehicle has them immediately available to them.”

Emergency response teams have held drills at schools during the summer months, Woodley said, to familiarize themselves with buildings so they would know how to respond during a true emergency.

“We’ve made great strides in that connection to the law enforcement community,” Woodley said.

He identified areas still needing improvement, most notably a statewide or countywide plan to create common language and common protocols for emergency situations.

“If a fire alarm went off in here, there would be no doubt about what to do,” Woodley said. Extensive practice with fire drills has increased students’ safety, he said. “They know what to do and how to do it.”

In the event of an intruder on school property, that familiarity is lacking. Although the district conducts regular drills, called lock-in and lockout drills, Woodley identified the lack of protocol and practice as barriers to safety.

He also recommended the implementation of a community outreach plan that would include school principals and parents.

“It is time and it would be appropriate for us to reach out to our parent community and involve them,” Woodley said.

He mentioned working with PTAs and parents to educate the public on school safety.

“I think this would be a good next step for us, to update our outreach and communication plan,” he said.

Also during the meeting, Deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney recommended the board vote to allow open enrollment for the 2014-15 school year. Although the board approved it, with board member Betty Reynolds being the lone vote against, members have yet to determine the number of slots available and at what schools. That information will be discussed at the next board work session, scheduled for Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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