Gateway offices expand David Douglas Schools’ facilities

Will they be reopening the hamburger stand? See what the Superintendent has to say about the newest property acquisition …

GABA President Fred Sanchez of welcomes businesspeople and neighbors to the June monthly meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many school districts in Oregon are shrinking. But, not so the outer East Portland David Douglas School District – as members and guests learned, while attending the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) meeting on June 12.

GABA President Fred Sanchez of Realty Brokers got the meeting started in the Meals on Wheels room in the East Portland Community Center, and started off self-introductions of those present.

David Douglas School District Superintendent of Instruction Don Grotting thanks Fred Sanchez and GABA for the decorated cake.

After pausing for a photo opportunity with David Douglas School District Superintendent of Instruction Don Grotting over a celebratory cake, Sanchez introduced the district’s chief educator.

“First, thank you for supporting David Douglas students,” Grotting began.

“I know many folks here are very supportive of the music and theater programs at our schools. We wouldn’t be able to have them without the help of supporters, and specifically without the help of this organization.”

Grotting said the District is engaged in a “facilities planning exercise. We have done an in-depth study of what David Douglas is going to look like, within the school district boundaries. Currently we run a budget of about $200 million – serving about 11,000 kids.

“The District was awarded a contract by the Department of Education for Early Child Education, for all of Multnomah County,” Grotting continued. “This is a program that serves children, from birth to five years old, who have some sort of special needs. So, students in both Parkrose and the Portland Public Schools participate – that’s about 3,000 students who may participate throughout the region.”

Finding office space for 150 Early Child Education employees is challenging, Superintendent Grotting says.

Currently, David Douglas Schools has 150 employees who service the Early Child Education program, the superintendent said. They currently are in offices located inside the Parkrose School District, because they couldn’t find a building inside the David Douglas School District, in which to house them.

“We purchased a piece of property in the Gateway business area – it’s called the Halsey Center [located at 11300 NE Halsey Street] – and we expect the sale to close soon,” Grottng said.

Hidden behind the trees in the back of this parking lot is “Halsey Center” – an office building that will become the David Douglas Schools Administrative Center.

[In fact, the deal was signed on June 17, and the real estate transaction closed as scheduled on June 19, Sanchez later confirmed.]

“We plan to move our administrative offices there,” explained Grotting. “Then, we’ll renovate the current administrative offices [on SE 140th Avenue] into classrooms. Hopefully this will help us lower some of our class sizes.”

The move will be done in phases, starting in September and running through January of 2015, as the current leases held in the approximately 20,000 ft.² office building expires.

The long-closed “Yaw’s Top Notch” restaurant probably won’t be reopened by the school district, Don Grotting says.

When he disclosed that the property purchase also includes the shuttered 6,000 ft.². “Yaw’s Top Notch” restaurant, questions about reopening it were immediately posed to Grotting.

“We thought about opening the restaurant as a ‘Culinary Education Center’ for students. But, when we prioritize our needs, we’re actually looking at renovating it for another purpose, or demolishing it to put in another office building.”

The David Douglas School District continues to grow, its superintendent says.

District to grow by 6,000 students
“We are at capacity,” Grotting went on. “We are at capacity, so much so, that we do not have a single empty classroom in any of the nine elementary schools, and we have high class sizes; the kindergarten class sizes are about 35 students.

“We have no more room for kids. At the same time, Oregon has what they call an ‘Interdistrict Transfer and Enrollment’ law. We have many students from other districts who want to come to David Douglas for various reasons. We have a lot more students who want to come in, and are leaving to other districts.”

For the first time, the District has established quotas on the number of students that can transfer into the district, he said. “It’s kind of tough to have a parent come to tears because her child wants to come to our schools and we have to say no – at the elementary level, we cannot get any more desks in the classroom; we’re total at capacity.”

For this reason, the District is engaging in a long-range facility plan. “We’re deciding how we’ll find and fund our buildings. In the next 15 to 20 years, we’re expected to increase our student population by about 6,000 students.

“Where will we put them?” Grotting asked rhetorically. “There are not a lot of large parcels of land available within the boundaries of our school district.”

David Douglas Schools’ Superintendent Grotting says the Board of Education is seriously considering where to grow, considering how little vacant property there is in the district.

For example, David Douglas High is sited on 40 acres. “They say we need somewhere between nine and 12 acres of property to build an elementary school. We’ve been working with Realty Brokers to seek out properties, and there are just a few parcels that are vacant right now.

“We’re looking at some of our existing properties, considering how and where to renovate schools or put in new classrooms. It is definitely an issue for us.

”That’s why the Board of Education isn’t waiting to take action,” Grotting concluded. “The District is deciding now what the educational environment is to look like in 2020.”

Meet with GABA on July 10
On July 10, the Gateway Area Business Association again meets, with networking staring at 11:30 a.m. Meeting starts at 11:45, and ends promptly at 1:00 p.m.

This month: Cascade Policy Institute Founder and Senior Analyst Steve Buckstein speaks at GABA. They’re meeting at the Meals on Wheels Center; 740 SE 106th Avenue (in the East Portland Community Center, between SE Stark Street and Cherry Blossom Drive). Lunch is available for an $8.00 “suggested donation”. For more information, see their all-new website: CLICK HERE.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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