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District News

March 7, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Declining enrollment in Damascus prompts school board to merge schools
 
Elementary and middle schools will combine to form K-8 school in current Damascus Middle School building
 
The Gresham-Barlow School Board voted March 6 to combine Damascus Middle School and Deep Creek Elementary School into a K-8 School. The school board also decided to operate the K-8 school in the current Damascus Middle School building. The changes will take place beginning next school year.
 
The decision to combine the two schools comes after several years of declining enrollment in both schools. Currently, both Deep Creek Elementary School and Damascus Middle School are at 50% capacity. Low enrollment makes it difficult to financially sustain and staff a comprehensive educational program. It is also more costly to operate two separate facilities when the needs of the current student population could be met in one building.
 
“The school board is committed to maintaining a high-performing school in the Damascus community,” said School Board Chair Matt O’Connell. “Transitioning to a K-8 model will allow that to continue in a manner that is financially sustainable.”
 
The school district had planned to remodel and expand Deep Creek Elementary School into a K-8 school using funds from a school bond. Voters did not approve the school bond proposal on the November 2013 ballot.
 
The school board weighed the pros and cons of both buildings before making its decision. The Deep Creek Elementary building is newer and provides a more modern learning environment. It also has a better-designed student drop off and pick up area.
 
“If the school bond had been approved, providing funds to significantly remodel and expand the school, it would have made for a better K-8 facility in the long-term,” said Superintendent Jim Schlachter. “In the short-term, the middle school facility is better suited for a K-8 grade configuration without a need for significant remodeling or additional investment of general fund resources.
 
The east wing of the middle school building has appropriately sized bathrooms for elementary school students. In comparison to the elementary school, the middle school is more easily adaptable to a K-8 instructional model. The middle school building has more than one gym and computer lab, and a larger library. It also has a science room, an art lab, a band room, and student lockers.
 
The Damascus Middle School building served students in grades 1-8 for several years before Deep Creek Elementary School was built.
 
The school board also considered whether boundary changes were an appropriate solution to the problem. The board reviewed the impact a boundary change would have on the communities from which the students would be drawn.  The challenges from busing students into the area, coupled with the likely need for boundary changes if a school bond passes in the near future, led the school board to determine a boundary change now would not be a desirable solution.
 
The school board hopes to one day re-open Deep Creek Elementary School. During the planning work for the next school bond proposal, remodeling the Deep Creek facility so it can become a K-8 school will be discussed.
 
The district is holding a Parent Information Meeting to provide more information about the transition to a K-8 school in Damascus. The meeting is on March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Damascus Middle School media center.  
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