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The school board votes to ditch a pilot program favored by school staff and parents, noting a lack of resources.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Rosa Parks Elementary School will return to a traditional school year calendar, after being on a year-round calendar for the past six years. 
Portland's only year-round school will return to a traditional school year schedule, starting this June.

Rosa Parks Elementary School has been a year-round school for the past six years.

The 12-month calendar was approved in 2014, when the school was given the green light to try out a temporary pilot program, making it the only campus in the Portland Public Schools system to operate on that calendar.

The Portland School Board approved an extension of the year-round calendar in 2017, and the following year, school board members voted to end the pilot program by the end of the 2018-19 school year.

A year ago, in March 2019, the board agreed that it would "examine academic and other student outcomes and community satisfaction under the year-round calendar," with a final report in 2020.

On Tuesday, March 3, the PPS board voted to return Rosa Parks to a traditional school calendar. Directors Michelle DePass and Julia Brim-Edwards voted against the change.

With the new schedule will come an additional 20 school days offered as summer school.

The conclusion? During the six-year pilot period, academic achievement went down, and while teachers and parents of Rosa Parks students said the school would be better off keeping its year-round schedule, PPS isn't equipped to deliver what the school needs to make it work.

"It is painful to admit that PPS has not faithfully fulfilled the model that was originally proposed six years ago," school board member Rita Moore said. "I think the year-round calendar is a promise that PPS cannot keep."

Moore said she was concerned that the district didn't have the proper resources — both internally and with external partners — to support a school operating on a different schedule from the rest in the district.

Moore said year-round school at the north Portland campus requires successful partnerships with places like the Boys & Girls Club and the Charles Jordan Community Center, to make sure kids have a place to go during school breaks, but, Moore suggested, "those (attempts) have not been financially sustainable for those organizations."

"I am not interested in PPS trying and failing to provide the support that a unique program in the system requires," Moore added.

Kevin Walker, principal at Rosa Parks, said having a year-round program created logistical hiccups within the district.

"I'm having to reach out to a lot to different departments … because we started (school) on a different day," Walker said. "When you're one of 82 and you're on a different schedule, people just forget about you."

Some from Rosa Parks said they felt the district's treatment of the school was more insidious. They pointed to what they called a lack of meaningful engagement with stakeholders before the calendar change was finalized.

"We are almost to spring break and our community, again, has no answer to what their lives will look like in June," Beyoung Yu, a teacher at Rosa Parks, told board members Tuesday. Yu had sharp criticism for the district, saying it voted against the wishes of the Rosa Parks community.

"Never asking a marginalized community what they want is oppressive," Yu said. "Alignment is not equity."

A memo about the pilot program indicates most community members and staff who were surveyed were in favor of keeping Rosa Parks as a year-round school.

PPS staff said surveys were circulated before the board vote, and a district memo indicates an engagement team reached out to parents and the school community via "phone calls, text messages, fliers and emails in multiple languages."

"As staff approached the community engagement efforts with the Rosa Parks community, we strived to engage in dialogue about the ways in which the Rosa Parks students and their families benefit from the current opportunities in the year-round calendar and understand the perceived and real limitations of the year-round calendar," a memo from PPS's regional superintendent and chief of schools reads.

Walker said he suspects the summer school option will help ease the blow, but it won't make up for the unease among staff and parents.

"This community has been on this calendar for the last six years, so in terms of change, that's significant," Walker said. "I also wonder why we had a year-round model that went unsupported for six years."

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