TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kim Kroeger, Tualatin High School choir director, leads the choir during the annual Starry Nights & Holiday Lights celebration at the Lake of the Commons last Friday.In spite of controversy that flared earlier this year over whether public schools should send choirs to sing at The Grotto, a Catholic sanctuary in northeast Portland, Tigard-Tualatin schools are planning to participate again this month.

The Crimsonnaires and concert choir from Tualatin High School will sing at The Grotto at 8 p.m. Friday, while Tigard High School's Choralation and concert choir will perform at 7 p.m. next Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Participation is not mandatory, although Tualatin High choir director Kim Kroeger said all but one of her students was planning to sing as of Monday.

Susan Stark Haydon, a spokeswoman for the Tigard-Tualatin School District, said in an email, “We talked to each school about making sure that students understood their individual participation was optional.”

Kroeger said the Tualatin High Crimsonnaires and concert choir have performed at The Grotto every year since the school opened in 1992. She called it a “longstanding tradition” for the choirs to participate.

Earlier this fall, Portland Public Schools made waves when the district announced it would not send choirs to sing at The Grotto due to concerns about the separation of church and state. The Grotto asks that choirs singing there perform “seasonal and sacred” music.

Tom Fulmer, a Grotto representative, told The Times' news partner, KOIN 6 News, in October, “The choirs that come here are asked to sing music that represents the true meaning of Christmas.”

Choirs from throughout Oregon and Washington come to The Grotto to perform during its Christmas Festival of Lights, which runs between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve annually.

A full schedule of choir performances is available at The Grotto's website.

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