Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The West End NEWS: January 2006

A Sense of Community
…thoughts on the proposal to close Reiche School

By Jo Coyne

Members of the Elementary Facilities Task Force, a group whose meetings have gone largely unnoticed by the general public, recently added to its list of possible school reconfigurations a plan to close Reiche Elementary School and bus its students to a proposed new school on Douglas Street. Several arguments were offered in support of this plan.
-The current lack of economic diversity at Reiche would be addressed by combining the population with that of Nathan Clifford Elementary School.
-Bus loading and unloading would be easier.
-The Douglas Street location is central and has good playing fields.
-State funds that may soon be available for the renovation of Reiche could be used instead in building the new school.
-West End private school parents might send their children to a new school.
-Reiche students would have a better physical learning environment.
-Reiche and Clifford school populations would remain largely intact.
-Students could remain at Reiche and Clifford during school construction.
-Long-term planning toward future school consolidation would be facilitated.

There was no discussion of community needs by EFTF members, no talk of the ways in which Reiche families relate to their school and community center. No mention was made of the easy access parents with limited transportation options now have to their children’s teachers, school activities, health staff and recreation programs. No explanation was offered for the proposed decentralization of city services so important to the neighborhood’s many immigrant families.
Reiche was built as a school and community center in the early 1970s in order to build a sense of community within the West End. Then, as now, the West End/Parkside neighborhoods provided more affordable housing than other parts of the city. Many families needed then, and still need, ready access to public health, library, school, recreation and other City services. The majority of Reiche students walk to school and parents have easy access to their children’s educational and recreational activities. Federal funding has made possible a major renovation of Reiche’s playgrounds and playing fields in a multi-phase project scheduled for completion this summer.
It is ironic that the closing of Reiche School would be proposed just as work is underway to update the facilities and programs of Reiche Community Center. Plans are underway for a Community Design Workshop in which a master plan will be developed for the Center, based upon the needs and priorities of neighborhood residents and other stakeholders. The West End Neighborhood Association is sponsoring the Workshop through funds recently received from the Vincent B. and Barbara G. Welch Foundation. Planners hope for broad participation from residents, City departments and others with a vested interest in the West End/Parkside neighborhoods.
Reiche School connects these neighborhoods of Portland’s peninsula in important ways. Those interested in preserving the sense of community that it provides are encouraged to contact Stephen Spring, District 2 School Committee Representative, at sprins@portlandschools.org or Elementary Facilities Task Force Chair Jason Toothaker at toothj@portlandschools.org . EFTF meetings are listed on the Portland Public Schools calendar at http://www.portlandschools.org/Pages/Community/SCAgenda/calendar.htm .


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