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PPS planning Llewellyn/Duniway boundary shift

by: GRAPHIC COURTESY OF P.P.S. - This illustration shows the boundary shift in the proposed in the Llewellyn-Duniway enrollment rebalancing plan; the area of Sellwood south of Tacoma and east of 17th would be reassigned to Duniway Elementary School. Unlike the meetings earlier this year that drew more than 100 parents concerned about Llewellyn Elementary School’s burgeoning enrollment, only ten people were at a presentation in the Sellwood Middle School Library on the evening of Thursday, November 8, on this topic.

Portland Public Schools Director of Enrollment and Transfer Judy Brennan and Regional Administrator Larry Dashiell presented there the staff recommendation that a portion of the Llewellyn Elementary School boundary be shifted back to Duniway Elementary School in Eastmoreland.

“The purpose of the boundary change is to balance enrollment between the two schools,” Brennan acknowledged. Over the summer, Brennan observed, there were six voluntary transfers from Llewellyn to Dunaway.

Specifically, the PPS boundary change plan provides that incoming students residing in the Sellwood residential area from S.E. Ochoco Street north to Tacoma Street, and from S.E. 17th Avenue east to McLoughlin Boulevard, would be shifted from Llewellyn to Duniway.

“If approved by the PPS School Board, this change would begin in September of 2013 for new PPS students, including incoming kindergartners, new move-ins, or transfers from private schools, in grades one through five,” explained Brennan.

Younger siblings of Llewellyn students have “a guaranteed space” at Llewellyn Elementary School, as do students currently attending that school.

Other boundary change schemes, forcing any current Llewellyn students to attend Duniway – or plans that would change the enrollment borders for Lewis or Winterhaven schools – were not recommended.

Brennan also said that the recommendation also provides that Special Education students remain at Llewellyn, “because this is a fragile community that is well served at the school”.

Complaints which the District staff have taken into account include:

· The plan doesnt bring relief to Llewellyn fast enough;

· It isolates the south-of-Tacoma Street community from the rest of Sellwood/Westmoreland; and,

· The Springwater Trail is the only feasible option for biking/walking to school for those in the new area.

On the plus side, Brennan said, the plan is expected within five years to balance enrollment between the schools to about 500 students each.

One parent at the meeting questioned the school district’s ability to accurately forecast incoming student populations – based on the recent experience of PSU population researchers predicting a permanent decline in Llewellyn enrollment which at one point led the school district to consider closing the school altogether – revised ultimately to an enrollment boundary shift, which this plan would now reverse.

Brennan assured the group that the school district has confidence in the current demographic models being used by the PSU researchers.

Acknowledging that some families feel “disenfranchised” by the proposed boundary change, Brennan said, “We’re working to find ways to help that community feel more a part of Duniway.”

And, when it comes to busing kids to school, she pointed out that many students now in the Llewellyn area are already outside of a bike/walk distance for either school.

“We heard it would make sense for Llewellyn families close to the Bybee overpass to be shifted to Duniway,” Brennan stated. “But this would mean moving families that now have a very easy block walk/bike route to Llewellyn to a school where they would not.

“So, we decided we would err on the side of following the existing transportation lines. We know that no boundary change ever seems really fair to the families affected by it.”

Finally, asked if the area’s middle school could accommodate the influx of students now graduating from the two elementary schools, Brennan said that Sellwood Middle School is currently “under capacity”. “We see no problem accommodating them when they arrive.”

While no one at the meeting lauded the rebalancing plan, none strenuously objected to the recommendation presented, either.

The boundary change plan, expected to affect about 135 students, was to be presented at a PPS School Board meeting at their headquarters at 501 N. Dixon Street on the evening of Monday, November 19, and the final decision is expected to come before winter break.