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Smiths plan for Jefferson cluster seeks change without significant disruption

Superintendent Carole Smith on Friday revealed her recommendation to balance enrollment in the Jefferson cluster — and it's not as controversial as people might have expected.

Her proposal, which she'll present to the school board on Monday, calls to merge Chief Joseph K-5 and Ockley Green PK-8 into a single neighborhood PK-8 school and close the Ockley Green focus option program. This merger would strengthen core program and enrichment for students and address crowding issues at Chief Joseph.

Chief Joseph and Ockley Green would operate as a shared campus while a phase-out of the Ockley Green magnet program occurs. The distribution of grades between buildings during that transition period would be determined.

Students attending the Ockley Green focus option program may remain in the merged PK-8, return to their neighborhood school, or apply to attend King PK-8.

A process to determine leadership of the merged school would include staff and community input.

The Chief Joseph building would ultimately close and all students would attend on the Ockley campus, which would be renamed.

She will also recommend co-locating the ACCESS program at King K-8, from its current too-small location at Sabin K-8, next fall. Co-location of these two programs allows room for both to develop growth plans while providing short term stability.

Finally, Smith will recommend a re-evaluation of transfer and student assignment policies to ensure that they support strong neighborhood schools across PPS.

“It is clear that the issues facing the Jefferson cluster are complex and long-standing. I recognize that PPS itself carries a measure of responsibility,” Smith said in a Friday afternoon statement. “It is also clear that the Jefferson community’s deep support for its neighborhood schools presents a tremendous opportunity to work together to build strong, sustainable and high-performing schools that prepare every student well for high school and college. Significant disruption at this time would undermine this goal, not support it.”

Smith will present her full, detailed recommendation to the school board at 6 p.m. Monday at the Blanchard Education Service Center, 501 N. Dixon St. The meetings are carried live on TV Channel 28 and streamed live online.

The board will then listen to public testimony:

• At a public hearing Saturday Feb.9, 10 a.m. to noon, in the Jefferson High School Auditorium, 5210 N. Kerby Ave.

• At their Monday Feb. 11 board meeting, 6 p.m., 501 N. Dixon St. (45 minutes allocated for testimony)

The board is expected to vote on the superintendent's recommendation Feb. 25.