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Bus shortages, language updates, and inclusion were hot topics at Lake Oswego School Board meeting on Sept. 27.

The Lake Oswego School Board convened on Monday, Sept. 27 to discuss upcoming improvements to the school bus driver shortage, policy changes and a statement of support for students of Newberg.

Dyslexia Awareness Month

Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction, LaKeyshua Washington, read the resolution acknowledging that October is Dyslexia Awareness Month and the district's commitment to literacy skills.

"Dyslexia affects all segments of society, regardless of race, income, educational background or ability … literacy is a critical skill needed for educational success, and students who do not read at grade level by third grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school with a diploma," Washington said.

After the board moved in motion, Washington highlighted key curricula and training sessions that were adopted to support students. One of those was "Letters," a curriculum focused on reading. She shared that 50 teachers across the district have signed up for training.

Other curricula tackle learning gaps, comprehension, writing and vocabulary.

Bus shortage improvements

Stuart Ketzler, assistant superintendent of business services, and Donna Atherton, executive director of human resources, tag-teamed in highlighting the upcoming improvements made to address the school district's bus driver shortage.

Three new bus drivers are set to start Monday, Oct. 4., but even with these new drivers in place the district is still four drivers down from the minimum needed.

However, seven potential drivers are currently in the pipeline, meaning if all paperwork and training are approved the school district would then have three more drivers than needed.

"I think it's important for us to remember this is growth, this is moving in the right direction," Atherton said.

Ketzler and Atherton presented other options that the district may need to consider if the bus driver shortage persists. One proposal models the Portland Public School System providing a financial stipend to families who drive their children to school. Another considers rescheduling school start times.

However, these were not formally proposed, as the district will wait to see what impact the new hires will have on routes.

Approved changes for equal opportunity and compulsory attendance

Atherton did the second reading of a proposed update to the Equal Employment Opportunity policy. The suggested updates will tweak the specific language in the policy to be more inclusive and accessible for readers.

The motion passed.

Washington also did a second reading for proposed updates on the Compulsory Attendance policy. One change is an update of language, specifically changing "he/her" to "their." Another is changing the definitions surrounding military children and foster care children.

The motion was passed.

Statement for the students of Newberg

Board member John Wallin ended the meeting with an impromptu declaration to support the students of Newberg — no matter how they identify. The Newberg School District recently had an employee show up to school in blackface, and over the summer the Newberg School Board approved a ban on "political" symbols such as Pride and Black Lives Matter imagery.

"I would just like to address something that's been going on in our community and … in a neighboring school district that has been in the news these days. I don't want to adjourn our meeting without talking about it," he said.

Wallin referenced that it is "especially inappropriate" for the Newberg School District to ban parts of student's identities as September marks Suicide Prevention Month. He said that suicide rates of LGBTQ+ youth are astronomical, and cited data that supports it, as 40% of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide in the last year. He also emphasized the "permanent scars" that racism leaves behind on children and reflected on the documented list of Lake Oswego School District's racist activity; reinstating Lake Oswego's commitment to being an anti-racist district.

"I cannot be silent and I'm thinking of our wider community. I'm standing with the students of Newburgh, students of color, LGBTQ+ students and all students who need a place to learn where they're supported academically, with dignity and respect," he said.

A districtwide parent advisory meeting will be held Oct. 12 at 7 p.m., instead of a regularly scheduled board meeting. The next board meeting will be on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.

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