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Central High may go middle

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With enrollment projected to increase, the Medford School District is again looking at opening a third middle school.

Officials have their eyes trained on an existing property: The Medford School District Education Center, home of Central Medford High School.

It would be the campus’ fifth role; since it was built in 1931, 815 S. Oakdale Ave. has been home to Medford High School, Medford Mid High School and South Medford High School.

To be ready to house middle schoolers, which in Medford still means seventh- and eighth-grade students, the facility would need extensive remodeling. Facilities Manager Ron Havniear and Chief Operations Officer Brad Earl broke down those details for the Medford School Board at a work session Monday night.

A cost estimate prepared by a Tigard consulting company set the cost directly associated with construction at $6 million. That doesn’t include another potential $2 million or more for window replacements and other costs.

“It kind of depends on where this lands in the scope of other projects on whether we can do some of it this summer or not within our existing budget footprint,” Earl told the board.

Superintendent Brian Shumate stressed that the plans are still in early stages and nothing is definite when it comes to a new middle school. Some renovations would benefit the building even if Central Medford High School stays put, he said.

“This is in no way saying that we’re already there,” Shumate said. “It’s so the board can make an informed decision ... we wanted to make sure you had good information about what’s going to be required in this building.”

Shumate and members of his administration will take input from taxpayers on their priorities for facilities projects at two listening sessions on Jan. 16 and Jan. 23, both from 6 to 7:30 p.m. This week’s session is at Oak Grove Elementary, 2838 W. Main St., Medford, and next week’s will be at Lone Pine Elementary, 3158 Lone Pine Road, Medford.

“Obviously there’s a lot of community input that we will be seeking because any time you do a boundary adjustment, the parents that are in those neighborhoods that would be affected deserve to have an opportunity to be heard,” Earl said.

The Central Medford renovation is also tied to Shumate’s efforts to modify and reduce the alternative high school program (updated from previous version), which provides more individualized learning to students who are not successful at North or South Medford high schools.

Central Medford student achievement has earned it scrutiny from the community; its four-year graduation rate in 2017 was just slightly higher than 31 percent.

The district’s method to relocate and reduce Central Medford (updated) is to move the kinds of support provided there to North and South Medford. That means expanding personalized learning options for students who don’t perform well in a traditional classroom, or who haven’t found a subject that captures their interests.

Shumate said that the district will likely continue a smaller alternative setting, probably in a different building, for about 50 to 75 students (updated from previous version).

One avenue that Medford administrators are pursuing is increasing online course offerings. That rollout has been accelerated much more quickly than originally anticipated, under the direction of Jennifer Jones, the online schools coordinator. Her position was created in this year’s budget and her salary is funded by Measure 98 funds.

The first step was to select an online course provider, which happened by the end of last school year. The district paid about $483,000 to a provider called Edgenuity and offered online summer school courses in 2018.

This year, that work expanded to include more course retrieval options for students.

Additionally, the school district continues to increase the diversity of its Pathway courses, which are supposed to keep students engaged with classes that align with their interests.

Central Medford students would have to be moved out of the building before construction would begin, Earl said. But the timeline the district is planning on following would keep students there for at least one more school year, and more likely, two.

“If things just don’t kind of fall into place in the next few months then it becomes more difficult to hit a deadline of 2021,” he said.

This article has been updated to more accurately reflect the district's plans to change its alternative high school program.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Amy Tiger walks through the hallway of Central High School and the Medford School District offices.