Medford’s Queen Anne Avenue lies in the heart of the Roosevelt Elementary School neighborhood. Parents are concerned the neighborhood will lose its camaraderie because of the school’s closure. - Bob Pennell

School neighborhoods face transition

Every school day, students and their parents used to walk to Roosevelt Elementary and mingle on the playground until teachers came to fetch the children for classes.

"It was a great opportunity to meet other parents and teachers," said Ed Chun, who moved his family to the Roosevelt attendance zone a year ago. "I met more families in that one year than I did in three years at my kids' old school."

But now that Roosevelt and Jackson Elementary have been shuttered because of safety concerns, Chun and other residents of both Medford neighborhoods worry the closures will not only separate siblings but fragment their close-knit communities.

The two schools were shut down in June because an engineer deemed them structurally unsafe. A district task force will examine what should be done with the campuses, which are competing with limited funding from a $189 million bond package approved in November. A recommendation is expected in October.

Jackson and Roosevelt students were split among four other schools, prompting Chun to seek a transfer for his two children to attend Lone Pine Elementary.

Chun said he wants to keep his children together on one campus.

Under the new school assignments, Chun's fifth-grade son, Brandon, would attend Hedrick Middle School while his first-grade daughter, Madeline, would go to Hoover Elementary.

Jackson students will be split between McLoughlin Middle School and West Side School, about four miles away.

On Sept. 6 — the first day of classes for Jackson and Roosevelt primary grades — some students will walk to bus stops. Other parents will ferry their children to school by car.

Everything will be different, neighbors said.

Having neighborhood schools has fostered a sense of community among residents, who see each other on the street and say hello, sometimes chatting on the school campuses.

Roosevelt has attracted families to settle in the surrounding neighborhood for generations.

"We thought this would be a good place to raise kids," said Nick Bufalino, a resident whose two teenage sons attended Roosevelt. "There was the school here. Then the library bond passed, and these beautiful libraries were built. But then a school bond didn't pass in 2002, the one in November barely passed and the libraries were closed.

"The good reasons to move to this area and raise kids are now all in flux."

The proximity of Jackson and Roosevelt to students' homes made it possible for low-income parents without cars and often in difficult living situations — even homelessness — to volunteer at the campuses, attend school events and consult teachers in person.

"All the school events and plays and stuff, a lot of parents won't be able to get there because they don't have cars," said Erin Scott, mother of a Jackson second-grader.

Jackson Principal Tom Ettel said he hopes to provide shuttles to ferry families between Jackson and West Side for school events to try to keep up parental involvement.

Roosevelt PTO president Marcia LaFond said there has been an exodus from the parent-teacher organization since parents learned in June that Roosevelt would be closed until the school could be renovated to safe conditions.

LaFond said her active volunteers have declined from 12 families to two because parents are trying to enroll their children in different schools.

"It's not very motivating to stay here," said Jennifer De Tour, mother of a Roosevelt fourth-grader. "With schools closing and libraries closing, I wonder who (officials) think they'll attract to this area. We are pretty disgusted."

Parents worry Jackson and Roosevelt will never reopen.

"The school is the anchor for this community, and not having it is going to affect the livability of this neighborhood," Chun said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or

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