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Parents, get involved in middle school plans

Medford School District officials are drawing the first new attendance boundaries in more than two decades as the district prepares to open a third middle school. These decisions are often contentious, and parents should take advantage of opportunities over the next few weeks to learn more and make their wishes known.

Oakdale Middle School will be housed in the building at 815 S. Oakdale Ave. that most recently was Central Medford High School. The building, originally constructed as Medford High School, later was Medford Mid High and then South Medford High School. It is undergoing extensive remodeling.

After the project was delayed during the pandemic, the new middle school is now scheduled to open in the fall of 2023.

The reason for adding a middle school is to relieve pressure on the district’s elementary schools, which are running out of room as the community grows. Hedrick and McLoughlin middle schools also have seen increasing enrollments. Along with the new school, the district is transitioning to a model that will send students in grades 6-8 to middle schools, leaving elementary schools with grades K through 5.

All this means that some elementary schools that now feed into Hedrick or McLoughlin will instead send students to Oakdale.

District officials acknowledge the difficulty of achieving equal populations at three schools. And parents will have varying reactions to the changes. Families with children often make housing decisions based on what schools their offspring will attend.

The district is working hard to give parents as much information as possible about the new school and the four zoning maps that have been proposed. They are only proposals, and district officials want feedback from parents before making any final decisions.

Four “gallery walks” are scheduled: 5-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, at Oak Grove Elementary School (a Spanish session will be held from 6-7 p.m.); 5-6 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at Griffin Creek Elementary School; 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 26, at Lone Pine Elementary School; and 5-6 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at Howard Elementary School (with a Spanish session from 6-7 p.m.).

Parents can express their opinions about the proposals online, as well as in a public hearing in early May.

The new school is an exciting and challenging development for Medford, and it’s important that the district gets it right. Parents of elementary and middle school students should make every effort to learn more and make their voices heard on the changes.