DolFun Swim Academy Opening on SE Stark

Later this Summer, DolFun Swim Academy will open in the former Cascade Athletic Clubs location at 9260 SE Stark Street. The recently shuttered gym will become the swim business’s first dedicated commercial location after nearly three decades of offering classes in private pools and shared spaces. Work is underway resurfacing the existing pool and transforming the now-empty exercise equipment room into an educational gymnastics space. The expanded services will accommodate children and adults, greatly expanding this business’s client base and restoring some gym access for Montavilla residents.

DolFUN’s Director, Stacy Crockett, hopes to open by early July. The existing 13 employees will move to this space when they launch in the new location, and Crockett is still looking for more instructors. Transforming the 20,000-square-foot shopfront will take months of work, but its existing layout works well for their needs. However, Crockett did not lease all of the former gym’s footprint and almost agreed to less. “Really, it was the pool that attracted us to the space. Once we talked with the property owners and discussed the rest of the space, we decided to take on more than just the pool area and expand our programming. We’ve had a long-time vision of being able to open a children’s movement and education center. We’re excited that we’re going to be able to achieve that dream,” said Crockett.

The pool is an essential component of DolFUN’s core programming. The company began offering swim classes to young children in 1994. The current class structure has kids grouped into age brackets. “We work on swim skills with infants into toddlerhood until they’re ready to transition to swimming with a teacher on their own,” explained Crockett. The program leans heavily on a staff’s knowledge about developmental ability within an entertaining environment. “Our main focus is on fun and swimming, learning safety skills through play,” said Crockett.

Part of the available storefront not leased by DolFUN

DolFUN students often remain at the academy for nearly a decade, graduating to more advanced levels throughout their early childhood. “Most of our families stay with us between three and nine years. Babies who come into the program tend to stay with us a little longer. Older kids who start after four, they’ll stay with us for about three to four years,” said Crockett. Parents must participate in swim lessons while their children are young, but children can transition to instructor-only sessions after they turn two and a half or three years old.

Class sizes are small and only increase as students become more confident swimmers. “Our seahorse and turtle classes (intermediate level) class has six swimmers with their teacher, and the other classes depend on the level. For our younger levels and non-swimmers, the classes will have four swimmers to one teacher, and our upper levels will have between five and eight swimmers per teacher,” explained Crockett.

Eventually, Stacy Crockett intends to offer eight simultaneous classes at DolFUN. However, for the launch, the weekend schedule will allow five groups at a time, with just two or three occurring together on weekdays. Crockett is allowing Cascade 205 Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy to retain pool access, but that will limit how many DolFUN classes can take place. The pool will also see use from adult students and tri-athletes as part of the new training programs coming to DolFUN. She also anticipates special event classes teaching first aid and CPR to new parents.

Stacy Crockett’s focus has centered on developing young children’s motor skills. Up until now, that work has occurred in a pool. Now the large open room that once housed exercise equipment will support non-swim physical activity. “When you walk in, there’s a huge open floor. So we’re going to have a big tumbling mat with lots of activities for kids to move,” said Crockett. Two educational gymnastic programs will encompass different age groups. “Sweet Peas is targeted for six months to six-year-olds, and our Ninja program is for five to 12-year-olds,” explained Crockett. Adults can sign up for aerobics classes, with cross-training sessions for swimmers and triathletes. Additionally, staff will create a small workout studio with select aerobics and resistance training equipment.

Starting sometime in July, DolFUN Swim Academy intends to open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends, with weekday classes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday. Crockett expects to add more days to the schedule as classes fill up. Existing students will receive priority placement, and then available space will go to families on the waitlist, but they hope to accommodate public registration soon after opening. Interested parents looking to register their child should call (888) 365-3862 or email DolFUN Swim Academy staff.

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ADA Corners and Storm Drains on SE Washington

During the month of May, commuters squeezed past road crews working on the sidewalk corners, and storm drains along SE Washington Street east of 82nd Avenue. Over the next few months, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) will build new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps on SE Stark and Washington Streets between SE 80th Avenue and Interstate 205. These infrastructure improvements bring street crossings along the busy roadway into compliance, improve stormwater management, and expand the pedestrian zone making people more visible to motorists.

SE Washington and 90th northwest corner

Cement masons are currently working on the corners on SE Washington Street at the intersection of SE 90th Avenue. At the same time, drainage crews are installing new grated collection boxes and connecting pipes at SE 88th Avenue. The storm drains installed along the street’s edge collect rainwater before it pools at the bottom of the ADA ramps and prevent street flooding in heavy rainstorms.

SE Washington and 90th southwest corner

The 2023 Summer construction season will have a reoccurring impact along the Stark-Washington couplet. PBOT will reconstruct many corners along both roads. Drivers should use caution while traveling, and pedestrians should expect to cross the street at times to detour around closed corners. Bicyclists should use extreme caution around construction as they may need to merge into car traffic lanes to avoid obstructions.

SE Washington and 88th southeast corner

Change of Ownership at Bipartisan

This week, the original owners of the Bipartisan Cafe sold the 18-year-old landmark shop to their former employee Josh Pangelinan. Hobie Bender and Peter Emerson opened the coffee house and pie spot at 7901 SE Stark Street on January 18th, 2005. The corner eatery helped launch the century-old downtown main street’s resurrection, defining Montavilla, and has served as the community’s living room for nearly two decades.

Bender and Emerson opened Bipartisan Cafe after Peter Emerson decided to cash out his stock option at Starbucks and leave the company. Both were 45 years old, and their two children were not yet teenagers. This sudden career change allowed Emerson to pursue a longtime obsession with creating communal spaces. “I am always creating restaurants in my head, ” said Emerson. “I actually explored opening [the cafe] about five years before when I was not happy working for Starbucks.” However, he kept his corporate job until his manager noted Emerson’s workplace disinterest in a performance review. “So I gave my notice and started looking around,” recalled Emerson. The partners considered purchasing an existing business but decided to create something new in an untapped market instead.

In the early 2000s, Montavilla lacked the definition as a neighborhood and was not the destination it has today. “If somebody told me I’m in Montavilla, I would say ‘where’s that?’ but it reminded me a little bit of a small town, which I’m from,” recalled Emerson. They found a rough space on the corner of SE 79th and Stark that had potential. “It was ugly, [but] I can work with it,” he recalled thinking while touring the storefront. When they tore out decades of tenant upgrades, the partners discovered that the building retained its 100-year-old charm below the surface. Under the fake stone facade hid the original undamaged transom windows. Walls and a drop ceiling covered thin-plank interior cladding, and the hardwood floors extended the length of the space, intact but worn with years of use. Emerson recalled it was just the look he imagined for his creation. “I wanted it to look like an old Grange hall, a community-type place.”

When the Bipartisan Cafe opened, it joined a handful of existing restaurants, bars, and shops. “There were some anchor businesses, but there was not much traffic,” said Emerson. However, even during construction, people expressed excitement over the new addition to their neighborhood that needed more walkable resources. “A lot of people had just moved in [to the area], and we didn’t have a coffee shop,” explained Emerson. That excitement translated into a strong launch that almost lost its momentum. “The first year went pretty good, and then I didn’t realize that December and January we’re going to be really slow. I panicked and thought we were going under, but it picked up stronger than ever mid-January, and it’s been a kind of a cycle like that since.” Press coverage of the new shop drove some traffic, but an article about Hobie Bender’s pies put the cafe on the map and brought people into the neighborhood from all over Portland.

The local customer base was stable, but significant growth required media exposure to bring people from outside the neighborhood. “We did the interview for that in May and forgot about it,” remembers Emerson. By summer, when the publication printed the article, the partners were unaware that their business’s trajectory would soon change. “We didn’t even know it was coming out, and we got slammed. Since then, pie has been what made us [known] citywide,” said Emerson.

Initially, the partners planned for Peter Emerson to run the shop, with Bender providing occasional support. She was enrolled in classes and on a different career path but still wanted to support the family cafe. “I foolishly thought, ‘Oh, I can make that work on my own,’ but she was helping right when we opened the doors, and by the end of the year, she was full-time,” recalled Emerson. Bender stopped going to school and took an equal role in developing the cafe. “I felt a little guilty about that for a while, but she has reassured me many times that she’s glad we did this,” confessed Emerson.

Hobie Bender’s daily participation in the Bipartisan Cafe helped the young business get off the ground, but her more influential contribution came from Bender’s multigenerational pie-making expertise. Growing up in Southern Oregon, she honed her baking skills in the one-time family business, but not through familial guidance. “Her mom owned a pie shop, Pies by George Ann, and Hobie worked in it as a teenager, but her mom wouldn’t teach her how to make pies because she never wanted Hobie to do it for a living.” However, when the business sold, the new owners kept Bender on and taught her the family recipes as an employee. Decades later, those renowned dishes became the core of the cafe’s success despite the efforts of Bender’s mother. “Those are the pies that we have here, and when her mom found out that we were gonna serve pies… she was not happy with me,” recalled Emerson.

Emerson noted that pies were not a popular item among the younger patrons when the cafe opened. In 2005, few places specialized in the dish, with most restaurants offering commercially baked varieties. After the article recognized their baking talents, a segment of the population that longed for a classic fresh pie began making the trek out to Montavilla. “When they said something about our pies, all of a sudden, we’re getting people from all over the city, and they were all older,” said Emerson. That buzz about their pies and coffee spread across generation lines, bringing even more people to the shop and neighborhood. As the Bipartisan’s reputation grew, adjacent storefronts became main street destinations again with customer-facing tenants.

Even as businesses opened around them, the Bipartisan Cafe remained a common destination for all residents, just as Peter Emerson intended. “I come from a small town where there is a space you go to, and on certain events, the whole town is there.” That meeting hall idea themed the space as an all-welcoming place for the community. Emerson’s family had a long history of political involvement and civic engagement, contributing to the cafe’s name. However, the obsession with collecting political memorabilia came after the doors opened, starting with four big posters. “Somebody gave me Eisenhower, and I think I had Kennedy, Johnson, and Lincoln. At some point, somebody came in and said, ‘I notice you have only Democrats on the wall.’ And I said, ‘well, Lincoln is on the wall.’ but I [thought] I should have a representative of all presidents.” That eventually led Emerson to eBay, and then he was hooked. Over the 18 years, he has packed the shop with articles of American political history. All but a few items will stay with the shop as part of the sale. Peter Emerson will take his father’s name placard and two figurines representing his dad. Hobie Bender will keep a sign’s letter “H” that Emerson liberated from an old hotel marquee.

Until a few years ago, selling the business was not part of the owners’ plan. “I thought I was going to work here until I die, and I was beginning to hand it over to my kids in early 2020.” Then the pandemic hit, causing the cafe business to struggle through all of 2020, extending into 2021 and beyond. A community fundraiser kept the cafe open with significant contributions from Mr. Plywood and loyal customers. “2020 to now has been hard. We had to reinvent every six months, and at some point, I just felt like I don’t have the energy that this place needs and deserves.” Bender and Emerson’s kids decided not to take on the tumultuous life of working in food service, leaving their parents to consider the future. A year ago, they started shopping the idea of a sale, but they had high standards for any buyer.

Josh Pangelinan worked at the cafe for eight years and kept tangentially involved as a coffee distributer’s rep. Once he expressed an interest in buying the shop, Emerson explained there was no other reason to keep looking. “He knows what the Bipartisan Cafe is. He knows what Montavilla is. He knows how they go together, and he’s going to keep that.” Not only will Pangelinan’s personal history with the cafe maintain continuity for customers, but his hands-on involvement will support the staff from a place of experience. Peter Emerson will work for the next 60 days making sure everything transitions smoothly, and then take a summer vacation before looking for his next adventure. Hobie Bender will come in as needed.

Peter Emerson looks back on the years at the cafe with a sense of success. Together with Bender, they created exactly the space he wanted to build, a small town community space in the heart of a city. A room where people gathered for the exhilaration of the 2008 election and the deflated hopes of the 2016 election. The place where people formed the farmer’s market and local business association. He is excited to see what the new owner will bring to the space, and he will still come in occasionally, but mainly as a customer interacting with his community. “All my friends are from the cafe, and I’ve got some great friends,” remarked Emerson.

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Paving of Unimproved NE Everett Street

Update: Crews are currently leveling the road surface to add new pavement and sidewalks to an unimproved gravel section of NE Everett Street from NE 76th Avenue to NE 78th Avenue.

This article first published on June 14th, 2022

Within the next twelve months, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) plans to transform a one-block section of NE Everett Street. Crews will pave the road surface and add sidewalks to the unimproved gravel street from NE 76th Avenue to NE 78th Avenue. Improvements to this road will fill a gap in the street grid, providing a multimodal east-west connector to the new 70’s Greenway and Vestal School.

When construction begins, road crews will create a twenty-eight-foot wide paved street with a travel lane in each direction and two seven-foot wide parking lanes along each side. Contractors will build seven-foot wide curb-tight sidewalks on both sides of the street. Other nearby streets contain plantable curb strips between the sidewalk and the roadway. However, existing adjacent homes will prevent a wider pedestrian zone on this block. 

NE Everett new road design between NE 76th and 78th Avenues. Courtesy PBOT

This section of NE Everett is part of the original Mount Tabor Villa Addition platted in 1889. This section of roadway has resisted change for 133 years, unlike neighboring streets that modernized ahead of Portland’s annexation of Montavilla in 1906. Consequentially, the City never adopted this block into PBOT’s street maintenance inventory, requiring adjacent property owners to repair the road surface during those years.

This work on NE Everett Street is funded as part of the 70’s Greenway project. Traditionally, road improvements to privately maintained streets occurred through a Local Improvement District (LID) project. That would require funding from all property owners with frontage along the street. According to Hannah SchaferInterim Director of Communications for PBOT, the four lots affected by this road construction will not need to pay for the work. “The project is Federally funded, so the property owners don’t have to contribute,” explained Schafer.

NE Everett looking west from NE 78th Avenue

Although the street improvements will add value to the properties, residents will need to adjust their usage along the road’s edge. Parking alignments will need to change, and some fences will likely need to move. However, the initial disruption will make way for better infrastructure, allowing people walking and biking in the area to travel safely. Additionally, a paved street will reduce vehicle damage caused by the gravel road, and driving within the neighborhood will become more predictable. Look for project updates later this year after PBOT selects the contractor for this work.

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Moto Cafe Pivots from Venue to Carts

Moto PDX Cafe could soon host up to eight food carts placed in its front parking lot at 8826 SE Stark Street. This next phase of supplemental business activity will follow a brief closure as staff remove the soundproofing recently added to the large glass windows at the front of the single-story building. The business owner installed that sound-deadening material in an attempt to contain the dance music played within. However, continued noise complaints encouraged him to abandon his ambitions for a local music venue and re-evaluate what business activity would work well for the surrounding community.

Moto PDX Cafe opened as a motorcycle-racing-themed restaurant and cafe in December 2021. Launching a new food service business during an already difficult time for restaurants hampered early growth, and cafe owner Brendan Jones looked for ways to supplement income for his young eatery. “Coming out of the pandemic after a less than stellar performance with the cafe, which has been very difficult, I was thinking we could get folks out to enjoy music events,” explained Jones. The initial performances were successful, and dance music during the evening hours was a growth area for the cafe. “That seemed to be going OK, and then I had someone approach me from the neighborhood.” A person living near the storefront could hear the music and felt it was louder than they liked. Jones proceeded to soundproof the front of the building around the beginning of the year in an attempt to contain the music. “The problem with sound is that it’s more art than science,” said Jones, and his attempts to block the noise seemed more challenging than expected.

After considerable expense and repeated attempts, Jones felt he had contained the dance music to the premises. After applying a new layer of foam material, he began playing music and walked the surrounding blocks to see how far one could hear anything. Feeling confident that his adjustments to the building worked and that he was not likely to disturb the neighbors, he continued to operate the dance venue. However, despite his efforts, the person returned with another notice about the excessive volume. Eventually, an official complaint came in, and Jones did not want to continue to press the issues. “The city notified me, and I didn’t wanna disturb the neighborhood, so we just stopped,” said Jones. “It’s not as if we were doing it to be jerks.”

Jones is always ready to adapt his business to meet demand, and food cart service has been an option for the property since he bought the building. With an end to the dance music, Jones felt it was time to move to the next phase. After reopening, Moto PDX Cafe will continue operating its full bar and offering a select menu. Jones has changed out the cafe’s food items several times since launching, and it now provides a small number of vegan/vegetarian options. Food carts will substantially expand the variety of cuisine while drawing more people in for adult beverages and coffee drinks. Jones acknowledges Montavilla has several food cart pods in the area but feels this space has an advantage. “I think one of the benefits of having the building in the rear is that during winter, it’ll be nice and warm and cozy.” Food cart patrons can enjoy their meals indoors with heat and restrooms while having access to a wide variety of drinks. Additionally, Jones sees the Stark Street space as nicely situated for patrons east of 82nd Avenue.

Expect Moto PDX Cafe to remain closed as they work on the property. The space will reopen after the cart tenants begin operation at the location. Food cart vendors can fill out a contact form at the cafe’s website to reserve a space or review terms.

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Six Townhomes on NE 91st

On April 26th, Provision Investments purchased the undeveloped lot at 716 NE 91st Avenue and filed paperwork to increase the lot coverage from 50 to 55.6 percent. This request will facilitate the construction of six new two-story townhomes on this site. This sloped lot remained after the previous owner developed two duplexes on the southern portion of the property. Those four homes fronted on NE Irving Street completed construction in 2019.

This property is zoned Residential Multi-Dwelling 1 (RM1), allowing a 1:1 Floor Area Ratio (FAR). It allows a maximum building coverage of 50% to incentives developments that gradually blend the characteristics of adjacent residential homes and denser multi-family housing. The total interior usable space of all the homes built here would need to total 4,900 square feet or less unless granted bonus FAR for affordability. This application represents an early proposal for development and will likely change based on the results of their adjustment to lot coverage restrictions.

Image from Portland Maps

The recent application revealed that Provision intends to create six new “townhome style residential condos” on the 50 by 100 foot lot. This language indicates the townhomes reside on a single property and will require a Home Owners Association (HOA) to manage the shared space. However, newer rules created by the Residential Infill Project could allow each home to have its own lot and obtain street access from a pathway easement. Development of this project could take six months to a year. Anticipate construction occurring in 2024.

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Potential 2024 TriMet Fare Increase

Bus and rail riders may have to pay more in 2024. The TriMet Board of Directors will vote on a proposed fare increase during its next meeting this Wednesday, May 24th. The public transportation company invites people to provide feedback on the proposal at the public hearing or via email. The meeting runs from 9 a.m. through 1 p.m. from the University of Oregon Portland campus at 70 NW Couch Street.

TriMet has avoided increasing most fares since 2012, despite rising gas, utilities, labor, and supply costs. The transit operator seeks to address inflation and supplement the growing operational costs through this fare increase. However, any increase in transportation costs can negatively impact those who are struggling with the rising cost of housing and food. Monthly pass holders will not see any price increase as part of this proposal. Adult riders would pay an additional 30 cents for a two-and-a-half-hour ticket, taking it from $2.50 to $2.80. The highest proposed increase affects the Adult Day Pass, bringing the cost to $5.60 from $5.00. If approved, the new fares would take effect on January 1st, 2024.

The public forum portion of the board meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and run for a maximum of 45 minutes. Individual comments are limited to 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the number of speakers. People wishing to comment on any TriMet topic, including the fare increase proposal, should sign up to speak by 9 a.m. on May 24th. Virtual testimony is available via Zoom. However, people interested in voicing their opinions online must visit by noon on May 23rd and register to receive a link. TriMet will live stream the meeting on YouTube.

The TriMet Board of Directors meeting will be the final opportunity for transit leaders to hear public comments on the fare increase proposal prior to their vote. Increasing the cost of ridership could further reduce the already diminished post-pandemic ridership, and some groups have called for removing all TriMet fees to lessen personal vehicle trips. Without significant changes to the funding mode used for public transportation, this increase is likely the quickest way to bolster the bus and rail operator. However, this increase will likely impact many people who have no other options but to use public transit and are already dealing with strained personal budgets.

Update: On May 24th, 2023, TriMet’s Board of Directors approved the proposed fare increase. The new pricing will go into effect January 1st, 2024.

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StormBreaker Opening in The Yard at Montavilla

This Monday, StormBreaker Brewing will begin its takeover of the beer service cart inside The Yard at Montavilla food cart pod located at 8220 NE Davis Street. Pod co-owner Kevin Dennis operates the existing Yard Bar at Montavilla drink station and will now turn over operations to the award-winning Portland brewery. This cart will join StormBreaker’s two other locations in St. Johns and on Mississippi Avenue.

The transition to the new cart operators will begin gradually with a Tap Takeover of the existing business. Starting at 4 p.m. on May 22nd, visitors of the food cart pod will experience the range of award-winning beers and seasonal brews offered by StormBreaker. After the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission approves their permit, the complete transformation of the bar can begin with branding changes and expanded offerings, including a variety of hard cider, hard seltzer, and wine.

StormBreaker’s owners are excited by the opportunity to serve Montavilla beer enthusiasts within the active food cart pod on 82nd Avenue. Kevin Dennis explained that alcoholic drink service is the backbone of a successful cart collective, and he has worked to keep a selection of beer available within his pod since opening. Dennis believes StormBreaker’s arrival in this location will boost his pod, attracting even more people to this two-year-old venture.

The StormBreaker Brewing bar cart is open from 4 to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday. They have expanded hours from noon to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays with noon to 8 p.m. service on Sundays. The new cart operators hope to captivate seasoned beer aficionados and newcomers with their expansive drink selection. Patrons can enjoy their drinks in a lively atmosphere within The Yard at Montavilla’s covered and open-air seating areas.

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10th Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival

Tonight, supporters of the music community will gather for the 10th Annual Montavilla Jazz Festival Season Reveal Fundraiser at two venues. Proceeds from the event will help fund this milestone jazz festival. Attendees will begin inside Flattop & Salamander at 6:00 p.m. and conclude the event at 9 p.m., two blocks away inside Strum PDX. The festivities will include live jazz, soul food, and musical “surprises” to celebrate a decade of hi-lighting Portland’s rich musical community.

Starting Monday, May 22nd, tickets will go on sale for the yearly three-day musical event. This season’s Montavilla Jazz Festival spans five venues and features 11 concerts showcasing Portland’s renowned jazz musicians. The festival begins with a world premiere of Views of an Urban Volcano, a three-part commission inspired by Portland’s Mt. Tabor. That project features a 12-member Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble and includes new works influenced by a series of community input events. Performances run from September 1st through the 3rd, with two concerts live-streamed for those who can not attend in person. Montavilla Jazz leaders will announce the full lineup on Saturday, May 20th, at Montavilla Jazz’s Season Reveal Fundraiser. Event organizers will post more information about the event on starting Monday.

Alan Jones – Photo by Kathryn Elsesser and provided courtesy Montavilla Jazz.

September’s Montavilla Jazz Venues include:
Mt. Tabor Park Caldera Amphitheater
Alberta Rose Theatre (3000 NE Alberta Street)
Portland Metro Arts (9003 SE Stark Street) – Live Streamed and in-person
The 1905 (830 N Shaver Street) – Live Streamed and in-person

Juvenile in Custody For Threatening School

Yesterday afternoon, Portland Police officers took a teenage boy into custody near SE 92nd Avenue and SE Stark Street after receiving reports of an armed former student threatening violence at Creative Science School. Just before 4:00 p.m., May 15th, East Precinct officers were dispatched to the 1231 SE 92nd Avenue school. Nearby, they found the 13-year-old suspect wearing a tactical vest, helmet, and goggles. The juvenile also possessed a convincing replica handgun. The responding offices took the child into custody, transporting the suspect to the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Center and detaining them on charges of Menacing with a Firearm and Disorderly Conduct.

KATU report of the incident said Portland Public School (PPS) previously banned the former student from the middle school. On Monday, staff escorted him off the property prior to the reports of a gun. After hearing about a possible weapon, School administrators followed established protocol during the event, putting the school into lockdown and contacting 911. 

A gun threat near a school is an alarming event. Fortunately, students and PPS staff were not in physical danger during this situation. The threatening behavior of this individual exposes an unaddressed issue within the local education system. This recent situation is an example of a former student using the threat of violence to express their feelings towards a school and community. In a country with the highest number of deadly school shootings, this event is a rare opportunity to evaluate our social systems without first having to lose a life.

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