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A ‘Rosa’ for Portland

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Peter Cookson can walk into a school and instantly tell you its personality. “You can tell a lot about a place just by how it looks and the energy of the students and teachers,” says Cookson, dean of Lewis & Clark’s Graduate School of Education and Counseling.

When Cookson walks into North Portland’s new Rosa Parks Elementary School, the vibe is one that celebrates the whole child: energy, happiness, creativity. Cookson and a team of faculty from the graduate school helped create that environment, in consultation with Portland-based Dull Olson Weekes Architects. 

Weekes sought Cookson’s counsel for replacing North Portland’s John Ball Elementary School with the newly constructed Rosa Parks Elementary School.

According to architect John Weekes, the Portland Public Schools had designed only one other school in the past three decades, so “little information existed about what a new school building should look like.”

Weekes’ architectural team turned to Lewis & Clark’s team to establish a template on which to base future new schools or remodels of existing schools. “The framework Peter and his team developed was the foundation on which Rosa Parks was designed,” says Weekes. “Their identification of learning needs, attributes, and guiding principles informed the development of spaces within the school and how they should be arranged.”

Doug Capps J.D. ‘73 served as project manager for Portland Public Schools, overseeing on behalf of the school district the project’s design, funding, and intergovernmental approvals that made the school a reality. “The graduate school’s focus on the children drove the decisions that guided how this community campus developed,” he says. 

“This is very Portland,” he adds. “We built this school with a unique collection of community partners. Rosa Parks Elementary School represents the promise of meaningful and creative learning experiences for teachers and students alike.” 

The success of Rosa Parks Elementary spurred Portland Public Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips to ask Cookson’s team to consider a similar process for re-visioning Jefferson High School in North Portland. A preliminary assessment may be completed by February.

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