For those wondering why the Menlo Park Plaza parking lot is exceedingly full a few Fridays a month—and what the David Douglas School District has to do with it—there are answers … and an ongoing debate.
In August 2015, the David Douglas School District entered a two-year lease for a 9,800-square-foot office space in Menlo Park Plaza. David Douglas secured the space for the Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MECP), which, for its part, is not specific to the David Douglas School District. In fact, it’s a countywide vehicle with services embedded in all eight school districts, encompassing around 3,000 kids.
The MECP, according to its official website, provides early intervention and early childhood special education services to children from birth to age five throughout Multnomah County. They foster individualized aid for young sprouts who possess developmental delays or disabilities. Services are free for eligible students.
According to Dan McCue, the communications director for the David Douglas School District, MECP does not hold classes in the space. “They [MECP] have a desk there, but most of the time [staff is] out somewhere in Multnomah County. It’s one of the buildings that houses about 280 staff, but virtually everyone is itinerate. They’re never at their desk, and they’re always out at a school. There’s a lot of paperwork involved with special education, but they have meetings or staff meetings every Friday.”
However, MECP’s habitation within the Plaza may not be long for this world—and it may not be free from controversy. In a memo dated Aug. 4 from Patti Komar, the director for the David Douglas School District, to the David Douglas School Board, Komar discusses the possibility of foregoing a renewal of the two-year lease.
Komar writes, “We will continue to look for alternative space for this program to mitigate some of the issues we’ve had with the location being near the bottle drop and Multnomah Clinic.” Following with something of a contradiction, the memo closes by adding, “Staff request the Board approve the renewal of the lease for two years.”
McCue confirms the current location at Menlo Park Plaza has been problematic. “There have been issues with the clinic there. We’ve had people mistake the office for the clinic [Multnomah County’s Harm Reduction Clinic behind the Walgreens at 12425 N.E. Glisan St.] looking for needle exchanges. They’ve had people sleeping in the doorway.”
The David Douglas School District, like McCue, understands that this can be challenging when children are in the vicinity. Still, McCue claims the possibility of a location swap is, for the most part, a matter of logistics.
“It’s space size and location. MECP is growing quite a bit, and they’d like to find a bigger facility. They want something a few thousand square feet larger. We are looking into finding a new facility that is closer to the Pacific Center, which is on Northeast Airport Way and 122nd,” he says.
As of late September, the David Douglas School District has opted to renew its lease, but unlike the former lease, this one looks like it’s only going to last about nine months.
“I just learned that MECP will remain in the Glisan facility through the spring,” says McCue. “So, we’ve renewed that lease through the end of this school year.”