Three Rivers Charter School considering expansion

by: FILE PHOTO - Small class sizes at Three Rivers Charter School means students receive personal attention from their teachers.Three Rivers Charter School is looking to renew its contract with the school district, asking for more funding and a potential expansion.

Three Rivers operates under a charter, or contract, between the members of the charter school board and the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board.

Russ Lewis, the charter’s board co-chairman, said the charter renewal process is challenging because none of the current board members has ever participated in the process. The school's original charter was granted in 2001 and was renewed in 2004 and 2009.

“It’s something none of our board members has ever been a part of,” Lewis said. “It’s new to school board members and new to (Superintendent) Dr. (Bill) Rhoades.”

The Three Rivers board already has begun speaking with Rhoades and school board members about the charter renewal process. State law sets out a two-step process for charter renewal. First, the school must ask the district for charter renewal; once the charter is renewed, the district and the school negotiate terms of operation.

“It would appear that we easily meet the requirements for renewal,” Lewis said. “The debate will come after renewal. Three Rivers will have two requests, expansion and a bigger share of ADMw.”

ADMw stands for average daily measurement, weighted, and it refers to the amount of state school funding a school district receives based on student population. Oregon school districts are required to give a minimum of 80 percent of ADMw to kindergarten through eighth grade charter schools.

“For 13 years, West Linn-Wilsonville has given us the minimum amount,” Lewis said. “For the entire time we’ve been in existence. ... Running a school, with all the infrastructure, (with) 100 kids is financially difficult.”

The school provides for most of its own needs, including infrastructure such as rent, transportation and accounting services.

“We are totally independent from the school district in terms of what’s provided to us,” Lewis said. “There’s a minimal amount of oversight.”

Oregon law requires the school district to visit the charter school at least once each year and to monitor and maintain permanent records of student enrollment, residency and attendance, for example.

“When taking all government funds into account, each TRCS student will receive approximately $5,900 this school year compared to approximately $9,500 for all other WL-WV students,” Lewis said in an email. The charter school’s board plans to ask for a portion of the 20 percent of ADMw that the district currently holds back.

“We’ll be asking the district how that 20 percent is spent on the children who attend Three Rivers,” Lewis said. “I get asked that so much, and I don’t have an answer.”

Receiving a larger percentage of ADMw funds would mean the school could ask students’ families to contribute significantly less each year. Currently, families are asked to contribute $3,900 per student each year. That’s not tuition, Lewis said, but a voluntary contribution.

“We’re a public school, so that is an ‘ask,’” he said. “We have families who don’t pay a dime because they can’t. ... I would love to bring that number down. I think we will have a more diverse student population. I think that makes a better school.”

The charter school currently has 100 students enrolled. The goal, according to Lewis, is to add about 50 more students over time, to a total of 150. With that number attending, the charter school would be more economically viable while still keeping its “small school” feel.

Lewis said the first goal is to secure the charter renewal. After that, the board is ready to start making plans that could include scouting for a new location if the school plans to expand.

“I would love to have to move because we have the ability to have more children at our school,” Lewis said.

The charter renewal process will operate under a strict timeline, mandated by statue, and the clock starts ticking as soon as the school requests renewal. Three Rivers’ board has not yet decided when to start the clock by officially requesting renewal.

The school is located at 4975 Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn. For more information, visit the school’s website at or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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