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West Linn-Wilsonville School District says community will be involved in planning

$200 million bond passed by voters in November. The district plans to build the Dollar Street school as a replacement for Athey Creek Middle School

Planning and approval processes for a new middle school on Dollar Street are moving forward, despite pushback from some members of the West Linn community.

At a recent joint work session between the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board and the West Linn City Council Monday, Feb. 24, the two bodies, and two dozen community members heard an update on capital school projects that are to be completed with money from the $200 million bond passed by voters in November. The district plans to build the Dollar Street school as a replacement for Athey Creek Middle School. Athey Creek will be transformed into an expanded version of Arts and Technology High School.

At the meeting, several community members expressed their concern for the Dollar Street project, arguing that it is not needed and that it will be detrimental to traffic congestion that already exists on Willamette Falls Drive. Other opponents to the project said that the school district did not adequately explain to voters the location of the proposed school.

While Dollar Street was not mentioned as the site of the school in the official voting pamphlet, the site was discussed a number of times at community meetings, in the media and other informational material from the school district.

Before the school can be built, the City of West Linn must approve a conditional use permit application from the school district. Remo Douglas, the district's project manager, said as part of the application process the district will conduct traffic, geological and historical studies of the site. He also said the district would be working closely with the community and the City's planning staff on plans for the school.

According to Douglas, the district expects to submit its permit application early next year, and if approved, construction will take place between 2022 and 2023.

WLHS stadium and parking

Douglas also told the council and school board that plans for expansion of West Linn High School's stadium and parking lots are progressing as well. The district is working with architects to determine how best to expand the school's parking, Douglas said.

The architects' findings — along with the application of parking requirements stipulated in City code — will determine how many more parking spaces can be added to the school.

According to the district, West Linn High School does not have a space large enough to fit the entire student body and faculty. The expanded stadium could become that space if it were necessary in an emergency.

WL-WV School District Superintendent Kathy Ludwig said that currently there is not enough seating for all of the spectators that attend WLHS football games. The project aims to safely seat all fans in the stands.

According to Douglas, the land use application for this project is expected to be completed this summer.

Equity work

After working together on the inaugural Multi-City Equity Summit last year, the City, school district and other regional partners are working on how to actually make their communities more diverse and equitable.

For the city councilors, this conversation was tinged with urgency, given the recent revelations of a racially-motivated wrongful arrest by West Linn police in 2017.

West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod asked if the school district had a diversity or equity director who could join the City in its efforts to become more equitable.

Axelrod said that people and groups he has consulted with lately, including the NAACP, have recommended putting together a task force of leaders to look at systemic racism.

Ludwig said that many school districts are moving away from the use of equity directors as it leads to the assumption that that person takes on all the equity work.

"It leads to the counter-narrative that the rest of us don't need to be (responsible for equity work) because this person would do the work," Ludwig said.

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