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MONTCLAIR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL HISTORY

It was in the 1960s when the enrollment growth in both Garden Home and Raleigh Hills schools was being carefully monitored by Beaverton School District 48. The sale of several acres of farmland between the two schools took place in the latter part of that decade, and an impending housing development convinced them another school would be needed. Wes Bauman, who had bought the Gertsch dairy farm, made no secret of the fact he intended that homes there would be too expensive for families with young children to afford; but he agreed to sell 9.05 acres to the school district in 1969. Access to the school would be from Oleson Road over a 30' easement strip, and the district would have room to provide paved parking for fifty cars and bus loading in front of the school. (Two interesting asides: After the school was built, an old roadbed from the former dairy farm was still in evidence from the playground towards the wooded area for several years. And, as it turned out, Mr. Bauman didn't start selling homes or lots in what became known as Arranmore - some say after Aaron Frank - for a few years after the school opened - and families with children did occupy them).

Philip McGriff was chosen to be the first principal, and the school was named Montclair ... appropriate because it could be seen from the Bauman family's upscale Montclair homes at that time, although creeks and wetlands separated the two. During school construction it became known that nearby school boundaries would change, and parents of those students who would he relocated from Raleigh Hills Elementary were reluctant to have their children transfer over to a new school. (The reverse happened when the boundaries had to change again years later and some Montclair students shifted to Raleigh Hills School.) They felt it would be especially upsetting since the buses would have to pass by their children's old school with their familiar staff and school friends. In an attempt to alleviate potential parent concerns, the future Montclair staff made a concentrated effort to be sure students and parents alike felt the change would be a positive one. Because of those efforts, these same parents came to the conclusion this new facility would provide a better learning environment because of small classroom sizes, and their children would make closer friends with the smaller enrollment.

Montclair Opens 1970

The new 12-classroom school was opened at 7250 SW Vermont in 1970 using a fashionable "open space" concept similar to others being built in the district at that time. The central — or core - library was never completed at this school, however, because enrollment didn't require it. Instead, the library was situated in one of the classrooms. The only glitch during the school's grand opening was that the furnace wouldn't work the first day of school and it was a rather cool September. After students and staff wore their coats all day, it was clear the problem was more serious than originally thought, and they got an extra week of vacation while the furnace was put in working order.

The wing to the left of the school's entrance had open-sided classrooms which opened onto multi-use areas. Each classroom was carpeted and could be separated from each other by folding wall dividers, but not closed off from the common areas. This caused a fair amount of noise and distraction.

The wing to the right of the entrance housed the gym and stage, cafeteria and kitchen, and Principal/health/staff/work and custodial rooms. During the first few years, lunch was served family style and considered very "cool" - the Montclair Vikings, as they were known, liked getting the bowls of food and serving each other at the cafeteria tables. Ultimately it was changed to the more typical walk-through cafeteria with both a standard lunch side and an alternative side; and later still, two salad bars were added with a choice of five entrees.

Although Montclair was meant to have a capacity of only 300, it wasn't until Garden Home School closed in 1982 that it reached its potential and more. Five portables with a common wooden sidewalk were added west of the school, one for music and four for classrooms.

Wetland Setting

Having Fanno creek flowing across property north of the school (Fanno Creek joins Vermont Creek just northeast of the radio tower site) - east/west from Bauman Pond to the wetland at Oregon Episcopal School - provided a perfect opportunity for wildlife observation for the students. When Tom Morris was Principal, Montclair had a Business/Education Partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers. Besides arranging for an entire school field trip to Bonneville Dam, the Corps also contributed information on wetlands; and the Audubon Society's Mike Houck came out to hold a class-to-class education series about the birds in the area as well. With high student interest in the birds and animals attracted to the marshland, the parent club purchased a scope, camera and attachments about 1985 and stationed them in a window of the library. When a bird was spotted, students would go to the scope and watch them shred and eat their food. Two younger Red-tailed Hawks eventually joined a larger one, entertaining the students over the years as they hunted for food and sat on top of the radio tower.

Between 1990 and 1992, the school grew so much that two bi-fold curtains were removed and solid walls were added to help define a larger library. A modular building with four classrooms replaced four of the portables; and even though one of the rooms was designed as an enclosed, soundproofed music room, the district agreed to leave the fifth portable for that use. The modular building then housed the Resource/LD room, kindergarten and two first grades and acquired the name of The Garden House. With first-grade teacher Marilyn Hubler's creativity, picket fence cutouts, planter boxes, benches and birds provided a welcoming entrance to the building. A covered play area and more parking spaces were also added to the school.

In the fall of 1992, Jackson Bottom Wetlands wrote a Governor's Watershed Enhancement Board grant to incorporate and introduce schools to wetland studies. Representatives came to Montclair in the spring of that school year and asked two classrooms - one 6th grade (Kuykendall) and one 5th grade (Soderskov) - to participate on a weekly basis. After the grant ended, they continued to provide wetland information on a request/fee basis, and covered topics such as plants/plants and animals/water quality/different kinds of wetlands/importance of wetlands and what makes up a wetland. It was during this time that the large Red-tailed Hawk disappeared, and the fourth and fifth graders discovered it dead at the base of a utility pole in the spring of 1993. With no obvious injuries, it was assumed that its wingspan had touched electrical wires. After getting permission of the radio station to walk around the area of the tower, and then getting permission from the Fish and Wildlife Department to remove the hawk, they collected pop cans to help pay for taxidermy work and a glass case in which to preserve the bird. With additional help from the PTO, the task was accomplished - and Montclair had a new school mascot. Welcome the Montclair Red-tailed Hawks!

The Beaverton School Board moved all sixth graders into renamed "middle" schools in 1994, leaving only kindergarten through fifth grade in the elementary schools. The Science/Language Arts curriculum at Montclair continued incorporating the wetland in the intermediate grades, but they discovered it wasn't as successful at the primary level. And when a Sharp-shin Hawk flew into a school window and died, it too was mounted. An Artist In Residence project became an activity describing the wetland's residents by picture, and the resulting artwork - named The Busy Pond - hangs in the main hall. Students also published a collection of stories called the "Red-tailed Tales."

In 1999 the east end of the building was removed as well as two of the original classrooms so that an actual, dedicated library could be added. A new code required an additional firewall ... and that created an outside extension wall by the front entrance, where Custodian John Price built a pond and rock garden - further complementing the wetland environment. Head Custodian Mike Boell developed a welcoming courtyard flower garden with an arbor and picket fence on the south side of the entrance lobby, which enticed bird and animal species attracted to a drier environment.

As of this writing, most classrooms have walls instead of bi-folds, and all have open doorways except three classrooms, which have actual doors. Second and third grade teachers are using team teaching techniques and enjoy the ability to open their classrooms into a larger area. There are now a total of 15 classrooms, a library, music room and gym. Intermediate students have been working with Washington County Clean Water Services and Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services to help replant a portion of the marshy area after it was disturbed by the sewer trunkline project on Vermont in 2000-01.

This is meant to be a "work in progress" so that staff can add to it or change it in any way. The above information was compiled by a former school district employee, Sharon Wilcox; with thanks to Fran Gilleland, Jaci Schlosser, Dave Bauman, Yvonne Brod, Mike Boell, John Price, Tom Morris, Luann Soderstrom, Nancy Leaf Marilyn Connell, Debbie Rhoads and Jerry Varner's book: School Days – A History of Public Schools In and Around Beaverton. Oregon 1856-2000.