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Some questions answered, some remain about 700-student school transition

According to 4J Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas, the choice to combine over 700 students into one building was in part driven by budget constraints.

Posted: Dec 4, 2019 11:45 PM
Updated: Dec 6, 2019 10:54 AM

EUGENE, Ore.-- Parents of students at Kelly Middle School and Yujin Gakuen had some questions answered about the 4J school board's choice to locate the two schools in one building at a work session Wednesday, but some fears remain.

Much of the meeting was a look back at the planning that has taken place since voters passed a $319 million bond to replace three aging schools in 2018.

As Edison and Camas Ridge elementary schools are replaced, students will be displaced to a transition school built on the site of the former Willard Elementary School. Parents in north Eugene told KEZI they consider this a better option to the merger, which will take place after Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion School and Corridor Elementary are demolished to make room for the new North Eugene High School.

Yujin Gakuen will merge with Kelly, while Corridor will merge with the current North Eugene High School. In both cases, the schools will be located in different parts of the building so that students of different age groups are not walking the same halls.

According to 4J Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas, the choice to combine over 700 students into one building was in part driven by budget constraints. 

"We have a $319 million bond," he said at the meeting. "So I get a little nervous when we start to play with the money in terms of not being able to completely fulfill what we promised our voters." 

District spokesperson Kerry Delf said that a transition school will be built in south Eugene because there were no other options that would work. In north Eugene, other options were discussed, but Kelly could cost-efficiently accommodate the students while remaining under capacity.

"We recognize that as we get into the implementation, combining, looking at things, that we are going to have to work through some of the issues," said board chair Anne Marie Levis.

Parents are still concerned that the merger may be short-sighted, while teams at the schools attempt to figure out how to accommodate large class sizes with classroom space at a premium.

RELATED ARTICLE: PARENTS HOPE 4J WORK SESSION ADDRESSES SCHOOL MERGER FEARS

"I think they are doing their best to address the scenario. It's unfortunate that we don't have the funds available or the room or the time to just generate a new building out of nowhere," said parent Scott Littlejohn.

Teachers are also concerned about the unknowns and say that the stress may be cause for some to quit.

"We have a huge number of teachers who have spent their entire career dedicated to our school and our building and our students, and they are looking at it like, 'Maybe this is the time to go,'" said Kelly teacher Stephanie Birmingham.

According to Delf, because of the complex circumstances, teacher's jobs will be secure regardless of how the transition impacts enrollment. 

Administrators from Kelly Middle School will be discussing transition plans specifically at a second work session scheduled for Dec. 18.

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