Two months ago, the Beaverton School District announced it was cutting the upper grades at two K-8 schools – Springville and Raleigh Hills. By 2023, both schools will only be open to students K-5.
At Springville, the district says there is no more classroom space.
But for Raleigh Hills families and some staff, the news came as an unwelcome surprise. And at a meeting Monday night at the school, families had their first opportunity to ask district officials why.
“We weren’t involved with it at all from the beginning,” said parent Jason Magalen at a rally before the meeting. “None of these parents were involved. The teachers didn’t even know until the day of that this letter was coming out, that this transition was going to take place.”
In its message to families at both schools, the district said it has been evaluating how best to provide a common middle school experience – the same classes, schedules, and class offerings for every student.
“We believe the change will provide additional opportunities and supports for all middle school students in the entire district,” said Superintendent Don Grotting.
The decision to phase out sixth, seventh and eighth grades was made by Grotting and district staff. Officials also point to staffing, funding, and facilities as other reasons for the closure. Families and staff did not know about the decision until it was final.
At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, the superintendent apologized to the crowd of over 50 parents, students, and staff.
“The communication process regarding the decision could’ve been better,” Grotting said.
But the trust between families and administrators was already strained. Wearing red and holding signs, families spent nearly two hours expressing their frustration and anger with the district’s decision.
“What is the real reason for closing?” asked one parent.
At the meeting, parents and staff refuted the district’s information about Raleigh Hills. As a focus option school, district officials said the school’s focus was technology. Parents and a long-time staff member disagreed with that.
“This is a crazy passionate group that loves this school,” said music teacher Glen Libonati. “To come here with answers that aren’t true, with all due respect, I’m blown away.”
Parents asked the district to reconsider the change at Raleigh Hills. But the district said the decision was final.
“We do want to hear you, and we do want to hear your ideas,” said Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Ginny Hansmann.
The district has no plans to close other option middle school programs, most of which also have high school-level programs.
The decision to close the middle school grades at Springville and Raleigh Hills leaves one K-8 in the district – Aloha-Huber Park, a dual-language program. The district said it’s evaluating options for “ensuring those students will be able to continue their dual-language pathway into middle school.”
For Raleigh Hills students, the school offers a middle school that still feels small and comforting. With just 160 students in its middle school, the school is much smaller than other standalone middle schools and the early grades at option schools that span from sixth through twelfth grades.
Fourth grade students at Raleigh Hills would be the first class affected by the closure. The school is transitioning to an elementary school over the next several years by accepting fewer applications for grades six through eight every year, starting next year.
Fourth grader DeElen Magalen doesn’t want to change schools in two years.
“I like it because the middle school is so small and it’s not too small and it’s not too big,” Magalen said. “If it was too big, I would get really anxious.”
Beaverton has created a task force to look at the “common middle school experience.”
Hansmann said there will be a meeting to talk about some of the ideas and thoughts shared by families. But she reiterated that the district’s decision is a final one, which was upsetting to parents and students.
“I came here thinking you’d listen to us and we’d have some decision to change this, but the response of ‘it’s final’ is just a brick wall and shuts me down,” one parent said.