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Verne Duncan families will not be forced to switch to attending Oregon Trail Elementary in the fall.

At their Jan. 14 meeting, North Clackamas School Board members are expected to approve the appeal to change the boundaries for 22 families living in the area south of the Carver Bridge to continue to attend Verne Duncan Elementary.

With the board's approval of the appeal, these families would not be forced to switch to attending Oregon Trail Elementary in the fall. Students in the Verne Duncan area will go on to attend Happy Valley Middle School and the newly constructed Adrienne C. Nelson High School beginning in the 2021-22 school year. Residents in the area south of the Clackamas River near the Carver Bridge have unincorporated Oregon City addresses, although they're in a small section of the North Clackamas School District surrounded on all sides by the Oregon City School District.

Kathy WaiIn June 2018, board members approved Superintendent Matt Utterback's recommendation to approve the proposed boundary changes to align new feeder patterns for the addition of Beatrice Morrow Cannady Elementary (which opened in 2019) and Nelson High School (which opens in fall 2021). The recommendation followed a four-month community process that included two public open houses, public comment opportunities to the school board, and eight meetings of a 26-member committee comprised of community members, administrators, board members and the school district's technical support staff.

In February 2019, the 22 families in the Carver area appealed the decision and board members agreed to hold the appeal until October 2020, when more data would become available about enrollment trends and school capacity.

Assistant Superintendent Cindy Detchon noted that with the installation of a new stoplight at the Carver Bridge, there's no longer the need to transport students from Oregon City along Clackamas River Drive to Interstate 205 and back out to Clackamas. Detchon recommended accepting the appeal since Duncan Elementary appears to have sufficient capacity to keep its community together and reduce the number of families affected by boundary changes in 2021.

"Transportation time was one of the biggest factors in making the original boundary decision," Detchon said.

NCSD recently purchased land for a middle school near Nelson High School and Verne Duncan Elementary School. This new middle school could open in five years if voters pass another construction bond, and its boundaries would undoubtedly include the area south of the Carver Bridge.

"Making the move now would be less disruptive in the long term," Detchon said. "In addition, the approval of this request will not garner additional boundary-modification requests as the two-year window for filing such appeals as passed."

Kaitlin Long, whose family is among those affected by the decision, testified before the board to make the boundary adjustment. Long said that the pandemic has already caused upheaval for students having to attend classes virtually, adding that additional changes would affect Verne Duncan students disproportionally.

"It's been proven over the past few years that the initial concerns and reasons for the boundary changes are no longer relevant," Long said.

School board member Tory McVay objected to voting to adjust the boundaries during last month's meeting, but he said his objections were only to allow for more public comment. Utterback said there was no reason the board couldn't wait to make its decision in January.

"I look forward to voting 'yes' for this," McVay said.

District staff this fall surveyed families living within the community in question, finding 21 families requested approval of the appeal, 10 families wanted to keep the approved boundaries and 18 did not respond. School Board Chair Libra Forde praised administrative staff for its "due diligence" in reaching out to each of the small groups of families affected, which made it easier to ensure most were aware.

"It sounds like we're doing a very thorough job with outreach, so I appreciate that," said board member Kathy Wai.


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