More than 100 students at Fern Hill Elementary will have to transfer schools to allow space for projected students.

A new residential development underway in Forest Grove is causing a shift in where some students will receive their education beginning this fall.

On Monday, May 14, the Forest Grove School Board discussed a plan to shift attendance boundaries for a group of students at Fern Hill Elementary School in Forest Grove, moving them to Cornelius Elementary School instead.STAFF PHOTO: OLIVIA SINGER - Cornelius Elementary School will welcome 100 transfer students at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

The plan comes after the construction of a new apartment complex in Forest Grove. Called Forestplace Apartments, the development at 3802 Pacific Avenue is projected to house around 120 elementary school-aged students, according to district spokesman David Warner.

These students would attend Fern Hill Elementary School, but the school does not have the space to accommodate the students, he said.

District board members, along with interim superintendent John O'Neill, Cornelius principal Angella Graves and Fern Hill principal Naomi Montelongo settled on a plan that will affect roughly 56 families and 130 students.

The decision reverses a previous boundary decision from several years ago, school district officials said. Cornelius Elementary has offered a dual-language program for years, where students are taught part of their day in English and Spanish. When the school switched to dual-language-only in 2015, students who weren't already enrolled in the dual-

language program were transferred over to Fern Hill.

"We love being a dual-language focused school, however when we get kids that move here in second, third, or fourth grade that don't have any Spanish (knowledge), adding them to a dual-language program is almost impossible," Graves said. "They wouldn't understand half of their day."

Warner said the proposed boundary change would return some Fern Hill students back to their neighborhood school, Cornelius. The school will offer English-only options for students.

"We'll have 100 more kids next year than we do this year, however, it's really nice to be able to bring back our neighborhood kids to our school simply because it's hard when we have to turn families away," Graves said.

Cornelius is currently hiring several new teachers, and the school will be adding another portable classroom to accomodate the changes, Graves said.

"We'll try to make it as smooth as possible," she said. "I think it will give us a little bit more flexibility."

Warner said the district has contacted every family affected by the change, asking for feedback.

"We received information back from 36 families," Warner said. "The vast majority said 'Yeah, if this has to happen, this would be the preferred way."'

There is one group of students however, who will be an exception to the plan. None of the current third graders will move schools.

Warner said grandfathering in third graders into Fern Hill is meant to ease the transition on older students. After moving to Cornelius for fourth grade, students would then have to move to Tom McCall Upper Elementary School the following year for fifth grade, and Neil Armstrong Middle School the year after that.

An open house will be held for the impacted families on Wednesday, May 30, at Cornelius Elementary School, where there will be presentations and an opportunity for families to tour the school.

"We want to have an opportunity for those families to come in and reacquaint themselves, so they can feel a little more comfortable with that decision," Warner said. "A lot of those folks are already familiar with the school, but we will have plenty of new folks there too."

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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