'Our forever home'
In June, the West Linn community will welcome a new school to the area: The Marylhurst School — a private, progressive institution for students in preschool through eighth grade.
The school, which usually enrolls 160-200 students, will move from its current leased property in Oregon City and plans to purchase the New Life Church located on 19915 Old Lower River Road behind the 7-Eleven off Highway 43.
The Marylhurst School — formerly known as Marylhurst Early Childhood Center — originally began as a preschool program on the Marylhurst University campus in 1972.
"Their philosophy had always been 'Childhood is like a meadow and every child is a different flower in the meadow and should be treated as such.' It was sweet," said Sheila Walker, head of the school.
The program was disbanded in 1986. But after a passionate group of Lake Oswego and West Linn parents decided they wanted to keep the program alive, they found a location in Oregon City at the historic Barclay building.
The school eventually added kindergarten, and seven years ago, the school slowly started adding primary and middle school grade levels for students throughout the Portland area.
The school was growing and needed a larger space.
For the last four years, The Marylhurst School has been housed on the Mt. Pleasant Elementary School campus, property owned by the Oregon City Police Department. But when the school moved to that location, staff knew it would only be temporary since the OCPD planned to build a new building on that site.
"What we are so excited about now is that we are going to have our forever home; that we don't have to keep doing this and we are going back to West Linn where we started," Walker said.
Both Walker and Nadia Cannon, assistant head of the school, said the school is unique because it provides play-based learning, or interactive learning.
"By going out, working in the dirt, kids will learn about soil and science better than reading it in a book," Cannon said. "What happens at recess is just as important as what happens in the classroom. All the parts of a child's day are important."
The school's curriculum also has an overarching theme that alternates every two years, while still meeting state and national education standards. This year, middle school students are studying voice and justice. Under that umbrella theme, students have been learning about the Civil Rights era, workers movements and Latin America. Teachers plan lessons around the theme to help foster a child's un-
derstanding of the larger concept.
Last year, when elementary students were learning about space, the kindergarteners read and watched "Apollo 13." The students then filmed their own version and had a red carpet premiere night.
"The teachers roll with the kids, the kids brought up this 'Apollo 13' so the teachers just linked that to the overarching theme of the curriculum," Walker said, adding that students then used math to measure and create a rocket ship. "It emerges from the children. As a teacher you're listening to what the kids are talking about so you're engaging them in the things they want to learn about. One year it was a group of 4-year-olds that came back after winter break and they were into shoes, so they (the class) did a shoe store."
Cannon and Walker also said the school has formed a tight-knit community where older students mentor younger students.
The school is accepting applications and plans to start school in the new location in September 2019. Walker said administration is fine-tuning the church so it meets code standards.
While the new location will be smaller than the school's current location, Walker and Cannon said the current location has a lot of unused space.
"The space doesn't define us; it's really what we do in here," Walker said, adding that staff wants to eventually add to the space.
Both Cannon and Walker are also excited about the opportunities, including kayaking in P.E. and science lessons along the river, that the close proximity to the water and Mary S. Young Park could create.
There will be open houses at the Oregon City location Nov. 15 from 6-8 p.m. and Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for prospective students who are interested in learning about the school and its new home in West Linn.