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PPS votes to move forward with school boundary changes

Changes to take effect on west side starting next fall

Public schools west of the Willamette River will begin implementing major changes next fall after a long-awaited vote of the Portland Public School board April 19.

The board voted 5-2 to approve a plan that will implement a cascade of boundary, feeder and programming plans to west side schools. It is a turning point in a multiyear process to redistribute students across the district to create “right-sized” schools out of schools that have too many kids and those that have too few.TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Portland Public Schools Senior Director of PK-12 Schools Sascha Perrins gives a presentation on why its important to even out school populations at a North Portland meeting last November.

Emotions have run high throughout the process, and the April 19 meeting was no exception.

“It feels the latest proposals solve other schools’ problems at the expense of Bridlemile and Robert Gray,” said Trista Rogers, a parent of two Bridlemile Elementary School students.

Rogers joined several parents in pushing for dual assignment so they could choose whether to send their child to one school or the other.

That seemed to be the deciding factor in Directors Mike Rosen and Steve Buel’s “no” votes on the plan.

“It’s not like we do this and it’s going to destroy what’s happening in North Portland,” Buel said. “That’s just totally illogical.”

But the district’s director of enrollment planning, Judy Brennan, said adding dual assignment would go against previous decisions setting up the framework of the boundary-change discussion.

Last year’s culmination of the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfer ended a long history of in-district transfers. Opening up dual assignment now could upend that effort and set a dangerous precedent for the next three or four cycles of more boundary changes in the next year or so, Brennan said.

“Do consider whether you want this option on the table to consider everywhere else we are going to be making changes,” Brennan advised the board, which eventually decided against dual assignment except for current Bridlemile fifth-graders.

The plan builds on an April 5 vote to reopen Ockley Green as a middle school beginning next fall. Ockley Green closed in 2013 as a K-8 school, merging with Chief Joseph elementary, in a period of declining enrollment that Ockley Green was due to mismanagement.

The process will continue with a vote on changes to east side schools expected this fall. More adjustments are also anticipated in 2017.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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