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Learning Center for Advanced Learning Brought Together a Consortium of School Districts and BusinessPORTLAND, OR-Ground has been broken and an initial design rendered for the new Center for Advanced Learning, a cooperative endeavor involving a consortium of three local school districts, Mt. Hood Community College, and the Multnomah Community Television.

Escrow on the 1.79-acre site on Civic Drive between Burnside Road and Division Street is due to close by month’s end with a $700,000 price tag. The proposed 58,000 sf, three-story, steel-and-concrete structure is estimated to cost $8.5 million to build plus $3 million in soft costs such as architects and building permits. Completion of construction is scheduled for January 2003 with the first full slate of classes starting in Fall 2003.

“It’s been wonderful because everyone has been committed to the idea,” says Michelle Moore, chief financial officer for the Gresham-Barlow School District within which the new center will be located. “Purchasing the property and coming to an agreement on a site made it more difficult to find a central location everyone felt comfortable with.”

When completed, the charter school facility will house 500 junior and senior high school students from all three school districts–Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds and Centennial. Courses will be available for community college students as well as offering training space for local businesses. The Community Television station will have a permanent home at the site, utilizing about one-third of the space for offices, studios, and equipment.

Initially, the facility will offer courses in pre-engineering and manufacturing on the first floor. Later two more components will be added, information technology on the second floor, and medical health sciences on the third floor. Some courses will offer the students college credit.

James Buck, assistant superintendent for the Gresham-Barlow district, says part of the property is listed as wetlands, so there were state and federal requirements to meet that pushed back the initial opening from 2002 to 2003. In the meantime, businesses such as Intel have been helping develop the center’s infrastructure.

“We’ve been working with Intel as a very cooperative partner,” Buck says. “They brought in a consulting firm to look at the infrastructure to make sure the facility will have the appropriate wiring and capacity to accommodate technology.”

In addition to support from the schools and business, the mayors of the various cities involved came on board, as did the developer of the Gresham Station commercial district, who wanted to see an educational facility in the heart of commercial development. The site is not only surrounded by retail, other commercial and residential development but it is also adjacent to light rail. A new station for the rail is scheduled to be built cattycorner to the center allowing easy access.

“We’re trying to create opportunities for students that will broaden their horizons as to what’s possible for their careers,” says Buck. The intent is to give them a step up in terms of preparation for college.”

The state school board association announced it will recognize the project with its Salute to Success Award during its annual convention on November 16.

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