New Osoberry School Aims to Provide Alternative Learning Environment

By Jake Lubin

Opening this fall at E Burnside St. and 44th Ave. is the new Osoberry School, a Kindergarten through sixth grade school that aims to provide an alternative to the often regimented learning environment that is public education. The school’s curriculum follows a holistic model of education, focusing on social and emotional learning as well as fundamental academics.
Emily Souther is the founder and only teacher at the school. She has a background as a public and private school teacher in Oregon and California, and currently works to support homeschool teachers. She felt like now was the right time to open Osoberry School. “We’re seeing that [students] are fairly stressed out, they don’t like the learning process and they don’t like being in school,” Souther noted. She attributes this to an imbalance of learning and play. “One thing that has been really important in my teaching experience is giving a lot of time for recharging throughout the day,” she explained. “We’ll have these bursts of learning time and [we’ll] really focus, and then we will have this time that we’ll go outside and we can recharge.”
In terms of numbers, Osoberry School is starting off small. With under 15 students and only one teacher, Souther is hoping to expand the school in the coming years. Osoberry is fairly unique in SE Portland, with the only other school similar to it being Sunstone Montessori School, which is much further south at SE 52nd Ave. and Woodstock Blvd.
Osoberry School curriculum features everything that would be expected from a normal public school. Core subjects like Math and English are similarly featured in the school’s curriculum. Despite the incredibly small class size, and the wide variety of ages and experience, the curriculum still aims to meet kids ages five through 12 where they’re at.
Souther also believes small class sizes can really help students with different neurotypes. “I’ve worked with a lot of kids who come from traditional school environments where they are crowded and overstimulated,” Souther explained. “Instead of having 24 kids in the class, there’s 14. Getting into that lower sensory environment allows them the sort of individual attention they need.” Souther hopes the calmer environment and small class size will be a breath of fresh air for students who struggle in the public school system.
Enrollment across the board in Portland Public Schools (PPS) is down 9.5 percent in the last five years, a drop of nearly 5,000 students. This exodus may be due to a desire by parents to find schools that better meet the needs of their kids.
Souther also notes that childcare can be a big issue for parents enrolling their children in public school. “There’s working parents who are really struggling to find reliable childcare and are spending a lot of mental energy coordinating after school care.” Osoberry School’s pickup time is flexible, from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, as well as running from September to July, to provide more childcare for parents whose needs aren’t met by the public school system.
Souther hopes that Osoberry School can provide an alternative to the public school system by providing a curriculum that addresses the needs of students uniquely and personally, to provide a better future for them.

Osoberry School is set to operate out of First Covenant Church starting this fall. Photo by Kris McDowell.

New Osoberry School Aims to Provide Alternative Learning Environment

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