February 11th, 2010 5:33 pm | by Leah Dimatteo News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Rigler Parents Want Solutions for Overcrowded School

PTAmeetingParents at a meeting at Rigler on K-8s in 2008.

Dozens of concerned parents and community members filled the auditorium at Rigler K-8 School in the Cully neighborhood Wednesday night for a meeting to discuss overcrowding at Rigler -- or the “injustice of inadequate space,” as some called it.

Years ago, before Rigler started its conversion from an elementary school to a K-8 in 2006, the Portland Association of Teachers union warned Portland Public Schools that the Northeast Portland school would not have enough room for additional grades. The union's dire prediction took little time to come true; in 2008 eighth graders from Rigler were shipped to Madison High School because of the lack of space.

Today, in order to accommodate the 600 enrolled students at Rigler, which has a capacity of 456, Rigler teachers have had to resort to measures that don't appear to match the fire code. According to those at the meeting, they are instructing classes in hallways and poorly ventilated closets in addition to six portables. Due to a lack of space and resources, early childhood development programs have been cut, and teachers and parents of children in the upper grades worry that the students will not be adequately prepared for high school.

Lunch and recess have become a complicated ordeal as well. Four lunch periods are crammed into two short midday hours, which parents say leaves hardly enough time to eat. One parent complained last night that when she packs lunch for her child, she is sure to peel his orange for him in the morning because he doesn't have enough time to do it himself during lunchtime. Additionally, on rainy days, recess is limited to a covered outdoor foyer and a small auditorium where movies are often played to keep the crowds of children under control.

To address these problems, the principal and PTA at Rigler proposed some “holistic, long-term solutions."

Some ideas included redrawing district boundaries (which the School Board would have to do) and either adding an extension to the existing school building at Rigler or erecting an entirely new building on campus or at the old site of Whitaker, an idea that would probably not be popular given Whitaker's contaminated past.

Another option parents suggested was developing a new primary center for kindergarten, first grade and second grade for the Cully area, similar to Chapman Annex.

As for where they plan on getting the funding for such projects, Principal Kristie Cunin and the PTA proposed establishing partnerships with public and private agencies like cash-strapped Multnomah County, the less-cash-strapped City of Portland, and the well funded Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. David Wynde, a member of the School Board, also reminded the crowd the district may be going out for a construction bond measure as soon as a year from now. (The district has been saying this since 2007.)

The presentation concluded last night with an optimistic call to action. Now was the time schools needed parents' help, organizers said.
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