Sunday, July 10, 2011

Charter School for Lake Oswego

The Lake Oswego School board is pressing forward with plans to close 3 elementary schools and expand Junior High to 6th grade. They have already done the one part of the plan that saves significant money, closing one elementary school. Closing the remaining 2 elementary schools and expanding Junior High will be more or less cost neutral but is a long held goal of Dr. Korach, the superintendent.

If the school board presses forward with closing schools and putting 6th graders in Junior High, I suggest that parent and community groups push forward with another option for families: a charter K-8 school on the Palisades campus.

The school board may take some convincing, but Oregon law specifies a process in ORS 338 that allows the sponsoring group to go around the school board if the school board is obstructionist. The City Council and the Lake Oswego Schools Foundation may also help push in the right direction since they give millions to the school district.

If two more schools are closed, a charter would be very positive for the district in helping relieve the classroom shortage, keeping kids in the district who may otherwise leave because their schools are closing, and providing another strong educational option to attract families to Lake Oswego.

Here is my thinking on a charter--

Draft Mission Statement:

Lake Oswego K-8 Charter will be:

-A small K-8 school focused on helping students achieve their potential through authentic relationships among students, teachers, and families.
-A school that offers students everything they need to be fully prepared to achieve their potential in high school.
-A school where students can safely explore their interests and values knowing a caring community supports and surrounds them

Capacity and configuration:
-Lake Oswego K-8 Charter would ultimately have 9 grades with 26-32 students in each grade for a total of 234 to 288 students.
-In the first year the school would have grades K and 1-7 adding 8th grade in the subsequent year
-If over subscribed at any grade level, a lottery would be held as required by law
-if under subscribed, 2 grades would be combined to achieve class sizes of 26-32 students
-Each grade would have one main teacher and aids or parent helpers as budget and volunteer commitments allow
-The school would have one foreign language teacher who would teach at all grade levels with a focus on 6th, 7th, and 8th so that most students would have achieved 1 or 2 years of high school foreign language
-The school would have one specialized math teacher and would offer at least two levels of math in 7th-8th grade so that all students capable of accelerated math will have completed algebra in 8th grade.
-7th and 8th grade students would work with both grade teachers, the foreign language teacher, and the math teacher to get focused subject instruction to prepare for high school
-The charter school would work so it's students could participate in district programs in music and sports where possible.

With the closing of 2 additional schools I would expect many families from Bryant, Palisades, and River Grove to choose to move to the charter. Under Oregon law, students from nearby districts could also choose the charter without needing to get approval from their districts. The other schools in the Lake Oswego district would benefit from the competition and the relief of pressure on classroom space.

I hope interested parents and others will move forward with this proposal or something else to put pressure on the school board to look out for the interests of kids and families ahead of the interests of teachers and administrators.

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