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The K-8 school will relocate to the former site of New Life Church Robinwood in West Linn.

COURTESY: MARYLHURST SCHOOL - Marylhurst School, which serves 165 students in grades K-8, will establish a new campus on land in West Linn that previously served as the home of the New Life Church Robinwood. In addition to renovating buildings already on the property, plans calls for the eventual construction of a 16,300-square-foot building that will contain 12 classrooms and a library.

A plan to turn a church in West Linn's Robinwood neighborhood into a K-8 school has been given a green light to move forward by the city's planning commission.

Members of the West Linn Panning Commission earlier this month unanimously approved a conditional use permit that will allow Marylhurst School to redevelop the former home of New Life Church Robinwood, at 19915 Old Lower River Road.

While the school will update and use buildings that already are on the property, it also has plans to construct a new main building to serve its 165 students. The work will be tackled in two phases, according to Sheila Walker, who heads the school.

A first phase will focus on parking lot improvements, installing sidewalks and revamping the existing buildings to allow the school to begin holding classes on its new campus in September. The school is about $140,000 short of the $500,000 that Walker estimates will be needed to complete that first round of work. She expects that a March 16 auction fundraiser will help the school make up the shortfall.

The second phase of work will focus on constructing a 16,300-square-foot building that will contain 12 classrooms and a library. The school will embark on a capital campaign two or three years from now to raise the $2 million to $3 million that will be needed for the project, Walker said.

The school already has received help from parents whose children have attended or currently attend the school. Deb Pearson, an architect, has provided pro bono services for the design of the main building, Walker said. Other families have pledged to help with paving for the parking lot.

Early days

The school opened in 1972 on the campus of Marylhurst University, which used it as a training ground for students majoring in early education. When the university stopped offering the major in 1986, it looked like Marylhurst School would have to close its doors. But a group of parents and teachers had another idea.

"A pretty passionate group of parents and teachers wanted to school to survive," Walker said.

The parents and teachers obtained nonprofit status for the school. Through an arrangement with the Oregon City School District, Marylhurst School relocated to the Barclay Building. In 2012, the school expanded from its original focus on preschool and kindergarten programs, adding classes for students at the primary and middle-school levels.

The school moved again in 2015, partnering with the Oregon City Police Department to temporarily lease the Mt. Pleasant Elementary School building from the city of Oregon City. However, a recent decision by the city to build new quarters for the city's police department and municipal court on the property left Marylhurst School administrators once again searching for a new home, one that might be more permanent.

The school settled on the West Linn property that once served as the home of New Life Church at the beginning of last year. The property was in escrow for a year, according to Walker. Meanwhile, the school spent almost as long working with the city to get a land-use change for the property.

"It's really exciting," Walker said. "It's been a long haul."

Even though classes won't be held in the new location until next fall, some of the school's students already have been spending time at the new campus. Middle school students have been at the new location several times to work with a science professor from Reed College on a project to restore a white oak habitat on the property, Walker said.

The new campus also will provide space for a Headstart program, a service Walker said is greatly needed in the area.

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