Parents 'completely blindsided' as Raleigh Hills drops middle school
It wasn't until a decision was already made that parents of Raleigh Hills K-8 School found out about plans to eliminate middle school from the site.
An announcement from the Beaverton School District released to the public in late September outlined plans to stop teaching the sixth, seventh and eighth grades at both Springville K-8 School and Raleigh Hills.
School district officials told families in a letter that the district is working to provide a "common middle school experience" for all students, which led to the transition away from the K-8 model to a K-5 model at the two schools.
Parents like Liz Delapoer, who has two students at Raleigh Hills, were caught off-guard.
"We were shocked by the announcement on Oct. 8," Delapoer said. "That email went to the entire district at the same time. There were no meetings, no outreach to the community at Raleigh Hills."
Shannon Walcott, president of the Raleigh Hills Parent Teacher Organization, said she and others have requested records from the district, to no avail. They've also reached out to school board members to find out when the decision to eliminate middle school was made, but they were told it was a unilateral decision made by the superintendent and district administrators.
When asked by The Times, district officials couldn't provide specific dates, but they said the matter was decided in September and October — and the decision is final.
"We were all completely blindsided," Walcott noted. "My son's in fourth grade. You choose your house based on what schools are around."
She said she wants the same K-8 experience for her son that her two daughters had, but now she isn't sure where her son will go to middle school.
Delapoer and Walcott say the district is making a mistake by eliminating middle school from Raleigh Hills.
"A lot of students thrive in this environment," Delapoer said, noting students do better in a small environment.
"It's frustrating, and beyond that, there's no information or collaboration from the community," Walcott said. "We've been trying to get answers and have gotten nothing."
Walcott and other parents pointed out that the Oct. 8 notice to parents was initially only provided in English, despite the Beaverton School District's sizable minority of Spanish-speaking families.
Furthermore, capital improvements that were promised for Raleigh Hills as part of the 2014 bond have now been "suspended indefinitely" by the district.
"We canvassed extensively in 2014 for a bond that was going to update our school," Walcott said. "Those bonds were supposed to be used to do some upgrades to the middle school portion of the school."
The district says it's holding out for more money from a future bond that has yet to be pitched to voters, so bigger projects at Raleigh Hills can be completed.
"The School Board is considering the merits of pursuing the construction of a new, state-of-the-art school in a future bond in lieu of the building addition project planned in the 2014 Capital Construction Bond," the district stated.
School district officials confirmed that there was no outreach or request for community input prior to the decision, and no school board vote.
"This was an administrative decision by Teaching & Learning and Cabinet," said district spokesperson Maureen Wheeler.
"Our kids are very well prepared for success in high school and college," Walcott said. "A K-8 model is well researched as a successful model because the kids are more well-adjusted to their environment. They don't have to make a transition during formative years. These kids are getting a great education. … They're doing well in school, and they're also socially aware of who they are."
Raleigh Hills parents have banded together in hopes of getting the district to change course on the decision. They created a website, SaveRHSK8.org, and have a meeting scheduled with Beaverton Superintendent Don Grotting on Dec. 2.
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