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Traffic is a major issue for neighbors, but future boundary and wetland decisions also loom

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - This 3-D model of the Beaverton School Districts newest high school was on display at an open house held Feb. 12 at Scholls Heights Elementary School.

Beaverton School District and the experts they hired to design and build the area’s next high school showed off site plans and a three-dimensional model of the 320,000-square-foot structure last week.

But many of the people who showed up Feb. 12 to take a look at the developing plan had more interest in what a school that will serve 2,200 teenagers will do to further clog their roads.

A handful of others wanted to know how and when the district would draw attendance boundaries and how the proposed campus layout would impact a designated wetlands area at the north end of the mostly hilly 47-acre site.

The selected design for the $109 million project sets the school building close to the corner of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road and 175th Avenue (which becomes Roy Rogers Road south of Scholls Ferry).

That choice was based largely on helping the school create its own identity by being visible to passing motorists, said Chris Linn, principal architect at Boora Architects. The placement also opens the middle of the site for a sports stadium, pulling noisy games farther from future neighborhoods across 175th, Linn said.

The school doesn’t yet have a name, school color, mascot or any staff — all those decisions loom ahead, along with determining which neighborhoods will feed the campus when it opens in the South Cooper Mountain area in September 2017.

The following is a quick look at some of the issues of interest to district residents, including about 100 people who attended the open house.

Increased traffic

Alton Harvey Sr., president of the Southwest Beaverton Neighborhood Association Committee, said residents in his area are most worried about traffic impacts from the high school and the larger development around the South Cooper Mountain.

“You can’t stop growth, especially in a place like Beaverton. I welcome it,” said Harvey, who believes officials can minimize the impacts. “I leave it to the engineers and all the planners.”

But Kay Nakamoto thinks the new high school will bring an increased number of inexperienced drivers over Cooper Mountain on 175th Avenue near her house, where she already witnesses frequent backups that grind traffic to a halt at busy travel times. At other times, motorists speed down the country lane.

“It’s really scary now,” said Nakamoto, a member of neighbors who organized a group called Save 175th over traffic concerns.

The issue is complicated because the city is charged with planning development in South Cooper Mountain, but Washington County has jurisdiction over 175th, a hilly, curved road that quickly clogs when traffic volume is high.

School officials said they will work with Washington County to help address traffic issues, including a bottleneck at the Southwest Kemmer Road intersection, where rush-hour traffic backs up cars on 175th, often blocking driveways and side roads.

Attendance boundaries

Deputy Superintendent Ron Porterfield said his boss, Superintendent Jeff Rose, will release information this spring about the process and a timeline for determining new attendance boundaries in the district. The actual decisions will push into at least the second half of 2015, Porterfield said.

The boundaries for the new high school will ripple across the district as students are shifted to alleviate overcrowding at four of the district’s five comprehensive high schools and make room for new growth. Only Beaverton High School currently is below building capacity.

“How do we get to make sure that our opinion does count?” asked a skeptical Shanan Gardiner, who lives in a Tigard neighborhood now served by Southridge High School.

“It’s a process that will involve lots and lots of people,” Porterfield said, describing a series of public meetings in the process. “We take a look at trying to minimize impacts to students at our existing schools.”

The timeline for selecting a principal and other staff, naming the school and other decisions also has not yet been established, Porterfield said.

Wetlands protection

One of the challenges at the site is that 47 acres is relatively small for a large high school and all the athletic facilities that go with it, especially when the site is bound by roads on two sides and the Hillsboro School District on its west border. On top of that, the terrain is hilly, making the placement of sports fields a difficult task, Linn said.

Concessions to the site’s limitations include overlapping different types of sport fields and building over some of the wetlands at the northeast end of the property, he said.

Brian Wegener, advocacy manager for the Tualatin Riverkeepers, presented a letter to school officials stating his belief that the current site plan does not provide adequate protection to the site’s wetland areas.

Those locations on the high school property aren’t always covered with standing water and dotted with ducks, but Wegener’s letter said that area still plays an important role in a watershed where many wetlands have been lost.

Wegener later said the district should acquire additional upland acreage for sports facilities instead of destroying wetlands.

Linn said officials working on the school site are in communications with regional, state and federal agencies on the wetlands issue.

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