Parents concerned as PPS assesses new SE Portland limit options
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Parents of Portland Public School students say they are concerned about some of the changes the district is considering as it strives to fill Southeast Portland’s colleges and balance the primary school enrollment.
In early 2020, PPS launched its efforts to balance Southeast Portland schools and formed the Southeast Guiding Coalition, which reviews proposals, takes community feedback into account and makes recommendations for new boundaries, school feeding models and special program locations.
The coalition is made up of representatives of the 21 schools that could be affected by the boundary changes.
The coalition and the school district plan to make a final decision on the proposed limit they will pass in February 2022 and as that date draws closer, Megan Mackin is increasingly concerned about the impact her sons will have. on his sons.
âIt is really important for us, after all the trauma they have gone through, that they stay with their people in their community,â she said.
Other parents have also expressed their concerns about the fragmentation of school communities during meetings of the Coalition of Guiding South-East.
Mackin’s twin sons are in first grade at Lewis Elementary School in southeast Portland. If either of the current two proposals are passed, Mackins’ address would fall within the Whitman Elementary School boundary instead of the Lewis Elementary School boundary.
After moving from virtual kindergarten to first grade in person at Lewis, Mackin said moving to Whitman in the fall of 2022 would be another trauma and disruption in his sons’ education.
She is also upset that the district is considering removing its long-inherited rule, which allows enrolled students to stay up to the highest level in their school, even if the boundaries change.
âIf they vote on the inheritance policy and vote to remove it, then you know that leaves people very little time to get ready or move out or you know, try to find other options,â Mackin said. .
Portland Public Schools’ deputy superintendent Claire Hertz said no decision has been made regarding the legacy policy on balancing enrollment. She said staff generally only recommend making an exception to the inheritance policy when overcrowding in a specific building is urgent and requires immediate attention.
Portland Public Schools want the enrollment balancing process to correct some inequities in its education system as well.
The district was concerned about its co-located language immersion schools; these are schools that share a building with a neighborhood school. One example is Woodstock Elementary, which has a Mandarin immersion school and serves as a neighborhood school. The district said it has received feedback from families and staff who have said that co-locating schools can divide resources and impact a school’s ability to fully support bilingual students.
He is also concerned that the Portland neighborhoods with the lowest incomes have some of the lowest student enrollment levels.
PPS wishes to have more than 500 students enrolled in each of its colleges and more than 270 students enrolled in each of its elementary schools.
The district wants to transform Harrison Park School from a K-8 school to a middle school. At present, it is reported that Harrison Park School, Bridger Middle School and Lane Middle School all have less than 500 students. The district is also working to complete the new Kellogg Middle School.
Whitman Elementary School, the school where Mackin’s sons could transfer, has fewer than 270 children and the school the boys currently attend, Lewis, has over 80% classroom use.
At a school board meeting on Tuesday, a representative of the Southeast Guiding Coalition said principals, teachers and students feel that a school that is 100% used feels overcrowded. They prefer to keep the usage at 80% or less.
What bothers Mackin is that other schools in Southeast Portland, such as Llewellyn Elementary in the Sellwood neighborhood and Duniway Elementary in the Eastmoreland neighborhood, are not being asked to adjust their enrollment, even though the two schools also exceed this 80% classroom utilization threshold.
âI think PPS likes to watch the schools that raise the fewest protests. So I think they’re not going to go to these schools that will have very vocal parents, âMackin said of why PPS isn’t asking Llewellyn and Duniway to make changes.
KOIN 6 News asked PPS why these schools weren’t required to make changes. Hertz said that although the two schools exceed the minimum enrollment of 270 people, they are not geographically close enough to be foster schools at Harrison Park or Lane Middle School.
She said enrollments cannot simply be redistributed from some colleges to others, as the district must consider both current and future enrollments.
âSwitching students now does not keep enrollment numbers balanced over the long term. There are neighborhood programs and schools that need to be balanced across the region, âHertz said.
At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Hertz and his committee asked principals whether bilingual immersion schools should be co-located with community schools or whether they should be entire schools on their own. They also asked whether Creative Science Schools should stay K-8 or move to K-5.
Most of the directors were divided on the two issues.
Hertz and other representatives from the Southeast Guiding Coalition also asked the school board if they think the boundary changes should not be implemented until fall 2023 to allow more time to adjust staff. The current implementation date is slated for fall 2022.
Trustees haven’t officially voted on the change, but most said they supported the delay due to concerns about staff.
“I know change is hard for people, but I know you can survive in different schools and I’m still, really, really in favor of the option that serves our black and brown children,” said the president of the Michelle DePass board of directors at the meeting.
Mackin said a change of school for his boys would not only be difficult, it would be devastating. She said if the boundary change passes, she will seriously consider moving to a new home within the new Lewis Elementary School boundary to allow her children to continue attending school.
The South East Guiding Coalition is currently in phase two of its boundary work and has two proposals for consideration: proposal A and proposal B. It is also working on proposal C. The next SEGC virtual meeting is Thursday at 6 p.m. For more details, click here.