Plans for campus community center begin to take shape

A $7.7 million community center will add classroom space, a gym, swimming pool and more to Muslim Educational Trust, a Islamic-outreach organization on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road.It’s been years in the making, and next month crews are expected to break ground on a new community center at Muslim Educational Trust.

MET, which was founded in 1993 as a community outreach organization, plans to build a $7.7 million community center and school on the grounds, a first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

“We first started talking about it two years ago,” said Rania Ayoub, a spokeswoman for MET. “The kids are really excited, and the parents are excited. They have been hearing about this for a long time. We have been waiting for this.”

It’s a major overhaul for MET, which has operated out of a hodge-podge of portables on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road for more than a decade.

“Except for the tree out front, everything will be demolished,” Ayoub said.

by: JAIME VALDEZ - A $7.7 million community center will add classroom space, a gym, swimming pool and more to Muslim Educational Trust, a Islamic-outreach organization on Southwest Scholls Ferry Road.The organization has run a kindergarten through eighth-grade school and a high school at the location since 2000 and offers frequent talks and community events to raise awareness about Islam.

Most recently, MET partnered with nearby Oregon Episcopal School in Raleigh Hills to bring Islamic studies professor Michael Sells to campus as well as host a teacher workshop.

The majority of MET’s lectures and community events happen around the Portland-area, Ayoub said. Since its inception, the school has relied on rental space from Portland State University and other sites.

Over the years, the handful of portable buildings on MET’s property have been converted into classrooms, science labs and offices.

Plans for the new community center will give students a bit more elbow room while also allowing MET to expand.

“It will be a welcoming center for everybody,” Ayoub said, “including non-Muslims who want to know more or get to know Muslims.”

The two-story, 36,000-square-foot school should be ready by fall 2014 and will serve as a school, museum and community center open to the public.

“It will become a home for all of our activities,” Ayoub said. “With all the Islamophobia that is going on around the world, specifically in the United States, it’s important to reach out to the people and tell them that if they want to know the actual teachings of Islam, (they can) come and learn more here or just get to know people who are Muslims and build bridges between you and the outside of the community.”

Ayoub said she sees the new community center as one such bridge to better connect the Muslim and non-Muslim parts of the community.

“That’s why it is so important to proceed with this building,” she said. “(The community center) is a benefit for everybody, whether it’s students, parents, Muslims, non-Muslims and everyone in Tigard and Beaverton.”

The facility will also feature a swimming pool, gymnasium, art gallery and space for MET’s regular lectures and community events.

The community center’s museum will showcase Middle Eastern art.

“Every room is so special and will bring so much value to not just the students, but to everybody,” Ayoub said.

Between its K-8 and high school classes, MET currently enrolls more than 160 students. Ayoub said the expansion will allow the schools to grow, adding about 40 additional students the first year.

“We have 260 students on our waiting list,” Ayoub said.

Ayoub said she wants people to view the new community center as just that, a place where members of the community — both Muslim and non-Muslim — are welcome. The gymnasium will be available for rent for area groups to meet in, and the swimming pool will be open to the public.

So far, MET has raised about half of the $7.7 million through donations and pledges.

“We still have a ways to go,” Ayoud said.

Construction is expected to begin in January and could take more than a year to complete. During construction, the school will move its facilities to a nearby office space on Southwest Nimbus Ave.

“Hopefully, we can get everything done within a year,” Ayoub said.

Students at MET’s high school who want to play sports currently play at nearby Southridge High School in Beaverton. With space of their own and the potential for more students in the next few years, Ayoub said she could see the students sporting MET jerseys in the near future.

“Who knows, maybe we will be able to have our own basketball team or a soccer team,” she said.

Donations for the community center can be made on MET's website.

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