Portland Public Schools redrawing school attendance boundaries
There are few things in public education that get families more stirred up than changing school attendance boundaries. Portland Public Schools is seeing that firsthand as it figures out new attendance borders for schools that house more than 14,000 students in the southeast part of the district.
When attendance boundaries change, school and neighborhood chums can be separated. Families who bought homes counting on going to a specific school may find their kids attending a totally different school. Some students even end up attending schools farther away from their homes.
With this redraw, the state's largest school district is trying to even out attendance patterns among its schools, easing crowding at some and boosting student numbers at under-enrolled buildings.
It also has to create an attendance area for the newly built Kellogg Middle School (3330 S.E. 69th Ave.), which will reopen in the fall of 2021, and set new borders for Harrison Park Middle School (2225 S.E. 87th Ave.), which will be converted from a K-8 school to middle school in 2022.
The Portland Public Schools school board has already heard from concerned students and parents testifying at general school board meetings on new boundaries.
Sadie Pettigrew, who has two daughters at Bridger K-8 School, said that under proposed new attendance lines, her daughters would have to travel three times farther to middle school at Harrison Park School than the much closer Kellogg. For high school, instead of the 0.8 miles to Franklin High School, Pettigrew's daughters would have to travel 3.4 miles to Madison High School.
Pettigrew said her family had always counted on their daughters attending nearby Franklin and has attended plays, sporting events and taken tours there.
"It is the most equitable choice for our children to attend their neighborhood school with their friends and community," she said.
The redrawing of school attendance lines in the southeast part of the district is just the first step in a multi-year effort to re-set boundaries and balance enrollment for all the schools in PPS.
In this first phase, virtually all of the 24 schools in southeast Portland will see some sort of change.
Families will be able to learn about proposed changes to the southeast boundaries and give their input at a virtual open house on Thursday, Nov. 19. A PPS boundary committee decided on one of 11 scenarios to propose for discussion at the Nov 19 meeting.
There is extensive information on the redrawing efforts and a survey on PPS's web page at ppsenrollmentbalancing.com/#Proposal.
Dani Ledesma, a PPS senior advisor on racial equity and social justice, said the boundary group wanted to make clear that the proposal the community will consider on Nov. 19 is "a first attempt," and that "we want to have the one scenario so that we can go deeper with (the community's) feedback."
Among the challenges the district faces are these: changing a boundary in one place can produce a cascade of unwelcome consequences in others; bus schedules can face major changes; and the demographic composition of schools can become skewed.
Construction at different sites can complicate potential boundary changes. For example, Marshall High School (3905 S.E. 91st Ave.) has been used to house students from other high schools that are being remodeled. Marshall will eventually be freed up for other potential uses.
Drafting new boundaries must account for data about current and expected future enrollment, the capacity of the buildings and student demographics. And where to put special programs such as language immersion also must be considered.
One of PPS's goals is to draw the new boundaries with an eye to racial and socio-economic equity. Another goal is to eliminate portable classrooms at schools.
The job is being guided by a PPS committee, which includes more than 60 parents, students and PPS staff. They've been working on different scenarios — as many as 11 — and have held multiple public meetings.
The district has hosted focus groups, and a report on a phone survey came in at 205 pages.
The committee is expected to bring a proposal to the school board in January of 2021, after community input.
The district is carving the southeast boundary project into two phases. The first covers Arleta K-8, Atkinson Elementary School, Bridger K-8, Cleveland High School, Creative Science K-8, Creston K-8, Franklin High, Harrison Park K-8, Hosford Middle School, Lane Middle School, Lent K-8, Madison High, Marysville K-8, Mt. Tabor Middle and Vestal Elementary. Many of the K-8 schools in the district are being converted to elementary schools.
In the scenario that will be presented to kick off the community discussion (Scenario 10 was the favorite among committee members), the new Kellogg Middle School would get students from Arleta, Creston and Marysville elementary schools.
Among the dozens of changes, Vestal Elementary students would go to Mt. Tabor Middle School instead of Roseway Heights Middle School and remain in the Madison High cluster.
Sunnyside K-8 students, who had been fed into Franklin High, would now go to Cleveland High. Glencoe students would continue to go to Mt. Tabor Middle School, but would attend Madison High instead of Franklin
The K-5 Spanish programs at Atkinson and Bridger would be relocated to Lent in one of the many changes.
The Creative Science school will be moved to a location yet to be determined.
The second phase of the border redraw, which will start in the spring of 2021, will work on new attendance lines for Abernathy, Kelly, Lewis, Whitman, Woodmere and Woodstock elementary schools.
PPS Regional Superintendent Esther Omogbehin said at a committee meeting there are no predetermined ideas in the redrawing of attendance lines.
"Everything is grassroots driven," she said.
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