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School conversations continue in Sellwood

As first reported in the July BEE, the Portland Public Schools have changed direction in the previously-announced plans to close one elementary school in Inner Southeast Portland, and now are open to the redrawing of boundaries to bring 'underperforming' schools up to an enrollment level the school district considers 'robust'.

This idea has not entirely eliminated the potential conflict between the schools involved, since the schools which appear to have the greatest to gain by the boundary changes, Llewellyn and Grout Elementary, can potentially draw from each other; and Duniway School, which already exceeds the target enrollment, indicates itself unwilling to cede the students it receives from Sellwood, even though Sellwood is closer to Llewellyn than Duniway.

Other points emerged from the August 2nd 'conversation' meeting at Sellwood Middle School. One was that the target enrollment level, 400 students, might severely strain Lewis Elementary in Woodstock, which has a comfortable capacity of around 350, but is willing to redraw its boundaries to serve students further east. Lewis suggests that the target be set as enrollment as a percentage of a school's capacity, rather than a fixed number.

Another is that one of the reasons Llewellyn has been viewed as being at risk of closing is a projection showing declining enrollment; in fact, many young families with children not yet of school age have been moving into Sellwood and Westmoreland, and this does not yet seem to be on the school district's radar.

Another is that Grout, if Head Start were located there, might increase enrollment eventually to an acceptable level largely as a result of that move.

The school district 'conversation' meetings offer limited opportunities for public input, but include representatives from the affected schools and neighborhood associations. SMILE has been unable to participate effectively, however, since the school district has scheduled its meetings directly opposite all SMILE General Public and Board meetings, preventing SMILE Board members from attending.

Llewellyn Elementary has been posting information about the meetings on its Internet website, www.llewellynelementary.com .