Lents Schools

Education was a top priority in Lents

School District #12, formed in 1860, originally comprised a territory from the west-most boundary near the city limits of Portland (at that time), four miles eastward, and from the southern boundary of Multnomah County to Section Line Road (SE Division St), and in 1861 the first school house was a 14’ x 14’ cabin built by Isacc Williams on his DLC and was located at Grey’s Crossing which is the corner of present-day 82nd Ave and Woodstock. There were around 7 students to start. The new district was organized at the concern of settler William Kern who declared it was not safe for his son to go through the dead timber, as would be necessary if he attended school at Mt. Tabor. In 1862 the Kerns sold two acres of their DLC to School District No 12 for the token amount of $1.

In 1868, the Lents donated a parcel of land near their residence on 100th Ave and Foster Rd. and a one room schoolhouse was raised there by the volunteer labor of local residents Jacob Johnson, his brother-in-law Moses Lee, Jefferson and Hiram Campbell, William Kern, 0, P. Lent and others. Upon opening, the pupils were the children of four families, Johnson, Lent, Gates, and Campbell. 

By 1878, the student population had outgrown the little schoolhouse and a new two-story schoolhouse was built on Main St north of Foster Rd. The school building was situated right in the middle of what would become Main St north of the Foster intersection before Main St had been cut through north. Only the lower room was needed for school purposes at that time and the upper was used as a Grange Hall, church, and for public and social gatherings. In 1890 the District 12 County School moved to a grading system. By 1902, there were around 100 students and the two classrooms were overcrowded. On September 12 of that year, a fire swept through the area, destroying the school and other nearby buildings. Classes were temporarily held at a roller skating rink located between Foster Rd and Woodstock Ave on the east side of Main St. 

Lents School #4, 1903-1910, postcard

A new school house was promptly erected in 1903 on the corner of Main St and Harold St. This building had 10 classrooms and an auditorium. By 1905 the student population had grown to more than four hundred. In 1907, County school was annexed into the Portland School district and its name was changed to Lents school by the following year. With the rapid expansion, this building was sold to a church group and moved from the property.

And in 1910, the first wing of a new, larger building was opened and was taken into Portland School District No. 1. By 1912, the completed 22-room Lents school had cost $100,000 and was considered one of the largest and best schools in Oregon. By the time the school closed in 1949, the school’s maintenance had been largely neglected having bad plumbing, poor lighting, inefficient heating, and was propped up by railroad ties.

Lents School – 92nd Ave and Harold – c. 1912
Oliver P. Lent School – 5105 SE 97th Ave – 1950

A new school was built five blocks to the east on 97th Ave and Steel St which opened in 1950 with around 550 students and 20 teachers. The new building cost $710,300 and is still in operation today. 

With the continuing rapid population growth of outer southeast Portland, Clinton Kelly Elementary, named for the pioneer and Methodist minister, was built at SE 92nd and Cooper St in 1952, and in 1960, John Marshall High School, named for Chief Justice John Marshall, opened on 91st Ave, 2 blocks south of Powell Blvd. In the  early years, Marshall was one of the top schools in the country; however,  it fell on hard times, challenged by dropping enrollments, poor test scores  and a population speaking over 17 different native languages. In 2004,  the school reopened as the John Marshall Campus, home to four small  schools which function as separate high schools within the same building. In 2012 until present, it became the swing site for other high schools in the district that are undergoing modernization construction funded by the City of Portland Bond Measures.

Marshall High School – aerial view – 1960

Schools timeline:

  • 1860 – School district number 12 was first organized
  • 1861 – 1867 – School house #1 (County school) – Grays crossing (82nd and Woodstock)
  • 1868 – 1877 – School house #2 (County school) – 101th Ave and Foster Rd (adjacent to the Lent’s residence)
  • 1878 – 1902 – School house #3 (County school): Foster Rd at Main St. Destroyed by fire.
  • 1903 – 1909 – School house #4 (Oliver P Lent school) – 323 Main St. (92nd and Harold)
  • 1910 – 1949 – School house #5 (Lents school) – 5526 SE 92nd Ave (92nd and Harold)
  • 1950 – Present – School house #6 (Oliver P. Lent school) – 5105 SE 97th Ave
  • 1952 – Present – Clinton Kelly Elementary – 9030 SE Cooper St
  • 1960 – Present – John Marshall High School – 3109 SE 91st Ave