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Medford School District seeks feedback on new middle school boundaries

Two men in safety vests and hard-hats look out a window on the second floor of an old school. The school is under renovations, and the ceiling is exposed, showing the insulation.
Roman Battaglia
JPR News
Oakdale Middle School will take over the old home of South Medford High. The building was constructed in the 1930s and requires seismic upgrades to be safe for school use again.

With the renovation and construction of a new middle school underway in Medford, the district is looking to finalize new attendance zones for the city.

Medford School District leaders met at the construction site of the new Oakdale Middle School, just south of downtown on Monday. Adding an additional middle school to the district means revamping the attendance boundaries.

Brad Earl is the assistant superintendent of operations at the district.

“So the reason to open a third middle school is so that we can have sixth graders in middle school, which is really the common experience for most students across the nation," he says. "And then that frees up many classrooms in our elementary schools.”

Earl says the district's elementary schools were stretched to capacity in order to both keep class sizes down and host sixth graders. This new middle school will buy the district another 10 years before having to build an additional elementary school.

Suzanne Messer is the chair of the Medford school board. She says the proposed boundaries could be finalized by June.

“This is a timely process," Messer says. "It’s gonna allow us about a year once we make a decision on what the boundaries look like. It will allow us a year of time to work with families and get our communities ready and communities engaged with what those three schools are going to look like.”

The changes to middle school boundaries are vastly different because of the need to accommodate another middle school, but some other changes have also been made. The boundaries between the two high schools has shifted slightly, to ensure more students remain together as they move from elementary to middle to high school.

The school board is seeking feedback from the community Thursday night on the latest proposal, which seeks to balance the populations of the schools and maintain racial and economic diversity.

The board hopes to finalize the new boundaries in June to prepare for the opening of Oakdale Middle School in fall of 2023.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.