By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
The Redmond School District will make sweeping changes to its academic landscape this fall, including closing the Redmond Early Learning Center and returning all its elementary schools to a K-5 model.
Additionally, the district will create a new elementary school, change some elementary school boundaries and move middle school students from Tumalo Community School to Obsidian Middle School.
The goal is to lower elementary school class sizes “to address the needs of a rapidly growing population,” Superintendent Mike McInstosh said in an email Thursday evening to parents, staff and community members.
About 5% of the district’s student population will be directly impacted by the changes.
“We understand that change of any kind an be challenging so our team has examined multiple options with the goal of developing a longer range solution that results in the least amount of impact on our students and families,” McIntosh said. He added that last year the district launched a comprehensive community engagement process to listen to students, parents, community members and local community leaders.
The district held 20 different listening sessions and conducted surveys with more than 700 respondents to identify educational priorities in the community.
Smaller class sizes emerged as a key area of focus.
“In order to lower class sizes in primary….the district will have to make some adjustments to our elementary schools,” McIntosh said.
The challenge, he said, is some schools are full and others aren’t.
“With this in mind, changes must be made to balance the population in our school facilities so that we can adequately make the best use of our schools,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest change for parents of young children will be the return of the K-5 model for Redmond’s five “in-town” elementary schools and the creation of a new elementary.
The district created the Redmond Early Learning Center in 2016 and moved all its kindergartners – and some preschoolers – under the same roof at Hugh Hartman. It’s grown to house more than 400 students, making it the largest early learning model in the state, according to RSD officials.
Kindergartners currently attending RELC will be transitioned back into the district’s elementary schools. Hugh Hartman will then become the new Hugh Hartman Elementary School. Lisa Flora-Burgher, originally appointed to serve as the RELC principal, will serve as principal of the new Hartman Elementary.
Other changes include unifying the district’s two dual language programs – currently at Sage Elementary and RELC – under one roof at Hartman.
And the John Tuck Elementary School boundary will change a bit so some households will move to the new Hartman Elementary, which will be within walking distance.
The district will about $5 million in additional funds from the Student Success Act to pay for the changes. The money will be used to help add staff to accommodate the additional classes.
The Student Success Act, passed by lawmakers in Oregon last year, will invest $2 billion in education every two years – $1 billion for early learning and K-12 education each year. According to Oregon.gov, $200 million of those funds goes into the State School Fund and the remaining is distributed into three accounts: the Early Learning Account, the Student Investment Account and the Statewide Education Initiatives Account.
Coming Friday, we’ll hear more from McIntosh and from parents about the changes.