By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
The Portland school district is offering two alternatives for changing school boundaries to accommodate expected growth over the next 10 years. However, both plans would eliminate some kindergarten-to-eighth-grade programs and return to K-5 buildings and middle schools.
Many North and Northeast parents, however, don’t like the idea. At November’s community meetings, these parents said their K-8 schools provided greater continuity for learning and a greater sense of community among students, parents and teachers.
K-8 schools also keep siblings in the same building, which is important for low-income parents and those who speak little English. Those parents often don’t drive and have trouble getting children to two different schools each morning.
Slightly different complaints came from parents at Scott and Lee schools, who said the additional electives promised at their K-8 schools haven’t enhanced education. At Scott, one mother said, the electives have been PE, art, cafeteria assistant, office assistant “and, sometimes, Spanish.”
Nearly half the Lee students are eligible for free lunches, and the figure is 60 percent at Scott, indicating federal regulations put them at poverty level.
The class selections, the mother said, indicate that the district has decided Scott students don’t need preparation to become engineers, doctors or lawyers but can become cafeteria assistants. She and two fathers said the district should listen to needs outlined by parents before any more changes are imposed upon them.
The two alternatives released for public comments were developed by a District Boundary Review Advisory Committee (DBRAC). It includes 26 teachers, students, principals, administrators, technical experts, community members and district board members. Information is online at www.pps.net.
Portland schools may have 5,000 more students — 53,000 — by 2025, according to current projections. Several of today’s schools are crowded but some remain under-enrolled. Superintendent Carole Smith has charged the DBRAC with developing a framework for balancing enrollment among the schools.
Portland Public Schools, according to district printed material, “aims to thoughtfully manage growth to create strong schools in every neighborhood.”
The school buildings vary in size and numbers of classrooms, and some crowded buildings are using areas not intended originally for classrooms. These physical differences are part of the puzzle that DBRAC is trying to solve while balancing enrollments across the city.
In December, DBRAC is scheduled to make a proposal to Superintendent Smith. She is expected to propose changes to the school board in January. The board is scheduled to vote on a proposal in January or February so that some changes can be made by fall, 2016.