How would you improve the schools?
When voters approved a $187 million bond for the Lake Oswego School District in May, they allocated funds to replace Lakeridge Junior High and the district pool, and to create makerspaces and centers for science, technology, engineering, art and math instruction. Money will also go toward improving security, safety and technology, and to addressing deferred maintenance at all 10 of the district's schools.
Did the district get it right? What if you could revise that list? What would you add or take away? If you are in a different school district, what changes would you make to improve the district you're in?
Those are the questions we asked members of the Student Writers Advisory Group — students at Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, West Linn and Wilsonville high schools who tackle subjects each month that range from teen driving and the "college game" to school start times, bullying and racism.
Some wrote about specific features of the bond as it exists now; others wrote about their dreams for the district — even if they don't attend school in Lake Oswego.
Here's what they had to say:
Improve special education
The sheer amount of money put into these improvements and the public support for the bond made me question how my own West Linn-Wilsonville School District would benefit from a bond like this.
Immediately, my mind went to special education. The amount of patience, grace and support that special educators bring to programs in all levels of education is unmatched. However, the ratio of instructors to students is far too low to adequately meet the needs of children who require special assistance.
Putting more money into special education programs is something that would benefit more people than just those directly affected. More support for special needs students will bring the whole community together. Creating a culture that is accepting, kind and patient for children with special needs will benefit not only students, but the community and the school district for years to come.
Another area within the WL-WV School District that would benefit from additional money would be adding more nurses to the district. Currently, there are five nurses who rotate among 16 schools, which obviously leaves the majority of buildings without a nurse at all times. Of the hundreds of children in a single school, there will certainly be a child sick, and if they need medical attention, it's very likely that a nurse won't be there.
Putting funding into programs that would only affect certain children, like Portland Public Schools did as they restructured a special needs program to find a home for a program for accelerated children, would not be constructive.
Any use of taxpayer money should benefit as many people as possible, and increasing special education funding as well as increasing the nursing staff would be very beneficial to every student, parent, teacher and family in the WL-WV School District.
— Alyson Johnston,
Wilsonville High School
Prioritize STEM classes
One cannot deny that the Lake Oswego School District is replete with advantages, such as fantastic teachers and a variety of academic opportunities. Numerous aspects still require improvement, however, with the most crucial issue in my mind being the lack of science and engineering facilities in elementary schools.
While the new bond measure does allot money for STEM facilities, I feel that the district should prioritize the primary schools over the secondary schools. Before anyone suspects me of trying to undermine our secondary education, allow me to explain that I believe in science facilities everywhere; their presence is simply more crucial at the elementary level.
As a graduate of Forest Hills Elementary, I can only recall a few science lessons throughout the whole of my tenure in the school; science was hardly on my radar as a "real" subject. We did hold a yearly science fair, but such events did not replace a regular scientific education. While I do not in any way believe that our elementary education system is severely lacking (I loved Forest Hills and wish I could return), I am certain that my own love for science, as well as that of my classmates, would have arisen much earlier had we possessed some inkling of combusting chemicals and miniscule atoms as first-graders.
Indeed, it is one of the most creative, natural subjects for a child to learn, with infinite possibilities for discovery. Introduce a young girl to a leaf and tell her that its tiny cells produce oxygen, and a biologist is born. Tell a young boy that the stars are constantly emitting heat and light from reactions in their cores, and you have created an astronomer.
Yes, we need STEM centers in our secondary schools as well, but in order for them to be beneficial, we must first kindle an interest for them in the children who will use them. One should not have to wait until sixth-grade to appreciate fully the study of how the world works.
— Elena Lee,
Lake Oswego High School
Focus on district pool issues
What comes to mind with the words "community pool"? Sunny summer days, or splashing friends? As a swimmer, I can say that a pool stands for much more within the community. Yes, it's a haven for all the community throughout the summer, but it also hosts competitive teams, one-on-one lessons, local law enforcement dive teams and lifeguard training groups.
My family seems to live, breathe and sleep at the pool. My brother Max and I swim for the Lake Oswego Swim Club (LOSC) at least four times a week. Additionally, I swim for the Lake Oswego High School swim team once a week, or twice if our weekly meet is hosted at LOHS. Max is also a committed player for the Lake Oswego Water Polo Organization (LOWPO) and attends those practices twice a week. Even my parents, who swim at some ungodly morning hour twice every week, are committed to the community pool.
Despite how much I enjoy swimming, using the LOHS pool is not the highlight of my experience. The floor is slippery and consistently a degree of dirty from footprints and hair. The ceiling, which cracked last school year, has been repaired, but still appears warped and on the verge of further damage. The diving blocks are old and some are wobbly. The walls are cracked, stained and constantly draft in cold air. The pool deck is cramped, especially during meets when the pool is packed with hundreds of people. And the locker rooms, bathrooms and showers are small, dark and vandalized. But eclipsing all of these issues is the worst and most evident aspect of the community pool's disrepair: its air quality. For people observing from the bleachers, the hot air feels heavy and smells overwhelmingly of chlorine. For swimmers, the air becomes difficult to breathe — sometimes after just a few laps. On multiple occasions, I've spent time in between practice sets coughing. I've also seen other swimmers climb out of the pool and catch their breath outside. And the water itself feels like a bath compared to other competitive pools.
The most dire need is adequate air circulation. This would benefit everyone: parents sitting in on lessons, coaches who stay on the pool deck for hours at a time and all other people who use the pool. Other necessities include a larger deck with a clean floor that grips, as well as colder water so swimmers don't need to worry about overheating. Next, the new pool should have additional improvements including new diving blocks, bathrooms and lights.
Overall, these requests for the upcoming pool aren't excessive nor do they request any sort of sporty luxury. And while the pool currently drains money, a remodeled facility has the potential to gain in the long run. After all, the pool is a staple in the Lake Oswego community, and it is our responsibility to uphold its maintenance and organization.
— Penelope Spurr,
Lake Oswego High School
Address Pacers' problems
One of the best uses of the Lake Oswego School District's $187 million bond is for the rebuilding of Lakeridge Junior High. When I attended LJH a few years ago, it was clear that the school was outdated and not built for the number of students now enrolled.
The sixth-grade classrooms are behind the former Bryant Elementary School building in three separate units called 'pods.' In order for students to get from class to class, they have to run out of the building where their class was held, dash to their locker in another pod and often race across the campus to get to the seventh- and eighth-grade building (formerly Waluga Junior High), then back to the pods — all in five minutes. It used to be four minutes when I attended; too bad this didn't count as a PE credit.
The classrooms — decades old — have ceilings and walls that are cracked and leaking, with trash cans alongside student desks to catch rainwater. Even though plenty of water is coming into the school, there are no drinking fountains on the entire sixth-grade campus of pods. It will be easy to see where taxpayers' dollars are spent when a new Lakeridge Junior High is created.
Over at Lakeridge High School, the bond money will hopefully help maintenance systems. In classrooms that contain large windows, students wear coats and some have even brought blankets to stay warm in the winter. One teacher keeps several Snuggies available for students so they can concentrate better. On warmer days, some rooms without any windows become so stifling that students have a tough time focusing on the lesson.
Pacers feel proud of our school, but we do not always know how the structure could be improved. Most students rarely visit classrooms in other high schools. Sometimes many don't realize that their school building could be better. But it is easy to see our cafeteria is built for less than half of the current number of students; even with two separate school lunch periods, many students end up eating on the floor around the building. This is unsanitary, leaves the school dirty and doesn't send a good message to visitors. There should be other designated eating areas constructed with tables and chairs.
In the classrooms, new furniture is needed. The chairs attached to the desks for students are uncomfortable and one size does not fit all. Many are wobbly and need to be replaced. More space could accommodate group project work and discussions.
Teachers need more room as well. Some have to share a classroom with another teacher during the year, and they definitely could use more storage space for materials and resources.
Fortunately, the school bond will start to address some of these issues, and it would be good to perhaps invite more students and teachers to have input into how the money is spent, since they are directly affected.
— Claire Petersen,
Lakeridge High School
Improve what we have
After Lake Oswego voters graciously voted to provide the Lake Oswego School District with more funds, the big question has become how to spend the new money.
One big selling point for those pushing for this new bond measure was the need for better technology in our schools. In all honesty, what we have now is perfectly fine. The funds need to be directed more toward the rebuilding of Lakeridge Junior High School. Many of the older buildings could use improvements, but the junior high especially needs fundamental improvements.
My concern is that when the big earthquake that is overdue finally comes, that building will not be standing by the end of it. The rebuilding of LJH should be at the top of the to-do list for the LOSD. We can live without new telescopes or computers, but the older buildings in our district need to be improved to ensure the safety of our students.
The last time I was in an elementary school, the roof leaked in some parts and many of the windows wouldn't open. This new money gives a solution to some of those problems.
Even the high schools could use some of the new funds to make students feel a little safer. I am constantly in a hypothermic state while cold air blows out of every vent in the school in the middle of December. The cold air never stops. Teachers keep blankets and space heaters in their rooms to help warm students and themselves. Students also keep blankets in their lockers, and are constantly drinking coffee and tea not just for the caffeine, but because it provides us with a way to warm our hands. Ask any student and they will admit that Lakeridge High School is one of the coldest environments to be in. Some of those bond funds should be used to heat the buildings students have to sit in for eight hours a day.
Lake Oswego students are lucky to have the opportunities and resources that we have. We don't necessarily need a lot of new things, we just need to strengthen what we already have.
— Nina Heidgerken,
Lakeridge High School
Add classes, tech equipment
When it comes to a school, the first and foremost thing should be the safety of the students and faculty. The bond will go toward fixing the infrastructure of the schools in the district, and I think this is particularly important for the older schools that really aren't in the best condition. For students who go to school to learn, the quality of the building itself should not be a concern.
The expansion of STEM classes is also important. As our world becomes more and more advanced, technology and engineering are crucial things that are not reflected in our school electives. And even with the few engineering classes we do have, they do not go deep into the subject.
Overall, there aren't many classes that focus on technology and computers. It doesn't have to be science and engineering, either; there is much that can be done with visual arts through technology. There isn't much on design and that area of art, and I think classes introducing that would be very helpful.
Speaking of technology, our school uses Chrome carts to carry Chromebooks. While this is highly beneficial, I think eventually students should be able to have their own device. Not having a laptop can be a hassle at times, especially since the majority of homework is online these days. Some students may prefer to take notes online, have homework online or need to search something up. With the no-phone rule, you cannot access the internet, and either way, a phone's small screen isn't the most efficient. For those students that do not personally own computers, school work must be done at home even when there is time in class.
While this may not seem as crucial of a topic, cafeteria food is also an area that can be improved upon. Many students eat school lunch each day, and it isn't the healthiest and doesn't taste the best. People always say that eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep are solutions to stress and overall well-being. However, with the lunch being served at schools, eating healthy isn't always an option. Even though school lunch obviously won't be on the scale of a restaurant, the improvements in healthiness will benefit many students.
As for the district, improvement possibilities should be brought more to the students' attention. Personally, I don't know much of what goes on in the district. Since the students are one of the larger groups that will be directly impacted by all the changes the school district makes, it is only natural that our opinions can be heard.
— Olivia Weng,
Lake Oswego High School
Fix the schedule
The $187 million school bond looks to address many physical improvements to the Lake Oswego School District. However, there are many structural improvements that can be made that are often overlooked when discussing how to better meet students' needs. An example of this can be found in the Lake Oswego High School (LOHS) schedule.
Support seminars — like study halls — are a new addition to the daily schedule this year, but they are controversial in the way that they are implemented into the week. In a recent unscientific poll taken of the student body, the majority of students stated that the support seminars included within the schedule are "not useful."
As far as I can see, there are two main issues regarding the effectiveness of the support seminars in place at LOHS:
First, the unbalanced assignment of students to teachers inconveniences all individuals. Certain teachers who lead classes that are more "congested," such as mathematics and English, face the issue of large amounts of students pouring into seminars asking for help. In order to address the majority of questions, teachers have been known to reteach their lessons during the seminar to save time. This prevents students from asking specific questions and blocks direct communication with the teacher. Other teachers who run less-strenuous classes struggle with barren classrooms during the 30-minute period, curbing the amount of productivity that could be achieved in the allotted block of time.
Second, students are not able to receive consistent support. The current schedule only allows for support seminars on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, along with "breaks" — an extended passing period where students are given time to also ask for help on Mondays and Fridays at 15 minutes each. The inconsistency of when students are given time to meet teachers poses a new challenge for individuals to organize the times that they may come in. Not only is this true, but the permission slip used to travel from one support seminar to another is an additional barrier that hampers the student experience.
These issues are relatively unnoticed at first, but as time goes on, they have a bigger impact on how easily a student is able to receive help.
With so many other factors, such as class size and the specific needs that call to be addressed within a support seminar, the possibility that the goal of increasing direct communication falls further and further out of reach. An assessment of the current schedule at LOHS and possible revision of the current plan could perhaps improve the way it aims to assist students next year.
— Andrea Yang,
Lake Oswego High School