The purpose of this notice is to share with you updated information on a number of topics related to our year-long adventure.
Attached to the email I used to link to this post is a "Transportation Survey" that I would be obliged if you returned rather soon. Portions of the survey I will relate again here. Two areas of focus are paramount: bus plans and sensitivity to the Ash Creek neighborhood.
We are conscious of the impact our presence will have on the Ash Creek neighborhood and have developed plans accordingly. In fact, in our Conditional Use Permit for the use of the Smith facility, we pledged to increase both bus ridership and carpool participation. Additionally, that document dictates particular routes for school buses and carpool vehicles (separate routes, with different entrance and egress for each).
- School buses will enter the neighborhood via Garden Home Drive, turning left on SW 52nd Ave., ensuring a school-side drop for students. They will exit via a left-hand turn on SW Orchid Street toward SW 45th Drive.
- If you drive a carpool of children to or from the school, the following route is important to note: (from Taylor's Ferry) Right on SW 50th Avenue, Left on SW Marigold Street, Left on SW 50th Avenue -- again, ensuring a school-side drop-off -- and exiting via a left-hand turn on SW Orchid Street toward SW 45th Drive.
- There are two clear routes to Taylor's Ferry. One, more direct, may also experience more traffic. That is to turn left on Barbur from Terwilliger, and a slight right on Taylor's Ferry. The other is slightly more complex, but will likely save time. It is to turn left onto Taylor's Ferry before the freeway, right on SW 19th Avenue, left on Barbur, right on Multnomah Blvd., right on Taylor's Ferry.
The other area of focus in relation to our temporary transition to Smith is that of ensuring the well-being, safety, and security of our students. In order to minimize the impact of the distance our students will be traveling we have taken a number of measures which I will outline here.
- Added Bus -- We have moved from three buses to four in order to shorten the ride times.
- Consolidated Stops -- We have consolidated some stops (similar to "snow routes") also in order to minimize ride times.
- The longest bus ride will -- as a result of these two measures -- be shorter than the longest ride during the 2008-2009 school year.
- Hitcher Clause -- Students arriving from outside the neighborhood may be dropped at one of three larger (in terms of pull-out space) bus stops in order to catch a ride to Smith.
- Specific bus route narratives will be posted on the District website in early August once they have been finalized. Drafts are in-hand now.
The posting for the 4th grade position closed on Monday, with 340 applicants! A sign of the times for certain, the turnout for the posting is encouraging in that we have an excellent field of candidates from which to choose. Priorities in the search are many, but ultimately we are seeking the somewhat nebulous "fit" for our school. Experience, communication skill, and content knowledge are among the most important factors. Interviews will take place in the late part of July and early weeks of August, with a panel composed of parents, teachers, and myself.
Configuration Plans -- Smith
The opportunity Smith Elementary provides us is remarkable. That we will be able to carry on our program with a minimum of alterations in a true school facility while the building is constructed, rather than guide children around a complicated and potentially dangerous construction site, is especially fortuitous. That being said, there are some configuration challenges posed by a facility that -- while built for more students than we bring -- was not designed to accommodate them in such small class sizes. Namely, our kindergarten model looks slightly different than it has in recent years (all students arrive in the morning, 1/2 day students then leave at midday) and third and fourth grade classrooms will be co-taught (two teachers in one classroom with approximately 28 students).
In the Spring, I communicated personally with most parents of rising third and fourth graders to share the early development of these plans. Some of those plans were clouded by the added consideration given to the uncertainty of where we would be in 2009-2010 and what the staffing level would be. Now that both of these questions have been answered (for the positive) we can more clearly delineate plans. I am developing a Frequently Asked Question page related to the decision-making process and the model itself in these grade levels; it will be the subject of my next newsletter. I am also keen to meet with parents of students in third and fourth grade to reassure you that the year will be a success, that the teachers involved are excited by the prospect of a unique year in their practice, and that we will ensure our students' success.
Plans are in the works for an opportunity for folks and children to see their temporary home. As school begins on August 31 this year, we will incorporate an opportunity to walk the halls into the process of unpacking boxes and moving into our spaces -- a volunteer day at Smith in late August. (By the way, please take note that the PTC New Families Picnic will be held on Sunday, August 23rd!) My suggestion is that you take an opportunity somewhere down the line this summer to drive the route and play on the equipment over at Smith.
I hope that everyone is having a fantastic summer, and that, as we approach a new school year, our focus can remain on providing our children with the finest possible educational experience.