By Midge Pierce
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith is expected to weigh in on the redrawn boundary proposals in January. Additional opportunities for citizen input will be available after that with final decisions expected by February and implementation in fall 2016.
Reactions have been mixed but some critics feel it is unfair to leave focus-option schools, formerly known as magnet schools, out of the boundary revision equation. Others are upset that proposed right-sizing turns some K-5 schools into K-8 schools and vice versa.
The uncertainty is frustrating for parents and teachers. Rebecca Wagner, a teacher at a SE Portland elementary, believes PPS should make a definitive decision one way or the other. “Either you believe that K-8 schools are a good idea or you believe that separate middle schools are the way to go.”
Wagner’s SE Portland school is a neighborhood catchment with a focus option. “Those who can afford to live in the neighborhood can access our environmental curricula. Those outside can take their chances and apply. PPS has to decide whether schools are 100% lottery driven or 100 neighborhood.
“PPS gives a lot of lip service to issues of equity,” she continues, “but when it gets to tough choices, they back down.”
On its website, the City says its Growing Great Schools project is intended to manage increasing enrollment and support learning. Wagner hopes student needs, not politics, will be the driver.
In the event of boundary changes, current policy allows students attending a school to remain there in most cases.
Information about the plan known as Growing Great Schools is available online at pps.k12.or.us/departments/enrollment-transfer/9522.htm.