Three weeks after declaring they weren't sure the Tubman building was safe, board members say it is

Portland Public Schools' board of education reversed its reversal on Tubman Middle School on Tuesday night, with members' saying they believed the building would be safe for students in the fall after all.

"Tubman is going to be an appropriate environment for students," board member Rita Moore declared at the packed board meeting.

Just three weeks ago, Moore had given parents a very different picture of environmental safety at Tubman, which sits above Interstate 5 in the Eliot neighborhood near the Rose Quarter, saying she'd either misunderstood staff assurances that the building was safe or that she'd been misinformed.

Either way, Moore said Oct. 24 that she couldn't be sure the building would be ready in fall to accept students. She and other board members then voted to pursue an alternative site for a middle school in inner-North and Northeast Portland, alarming parent activists who had pushed for years for a high-quality middle school in the historic heart of Portland's black community.

On Tuesday night, board members and Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero attempted to unring the alarm bell.

"There aren't any indications that the building can't be inhabited by our students," Guerrero told audience members.

The district's chief operating officer, Jerry Vincent, said the district would be taking additional quick steps to test and remodel Tubman before fall.

"We're all in on this," he said.

Despite the assurances, Moore still left room for another change in direction if future tests raise new questions about Tubman's safety.

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