Portland Public Schools’ special education program won’t move this summer, the school district announced Friday. The district’s about-face comes a day after families at the school filed a lawsuit to try and halt the move.
The announcement does not reference the lawsuit. It also does not say what will happen to Access, the school for gifted children that was supposed to move into Pioneer’s building.
The district must shuffle students in order to open two new middle schools in time for the start of the school year in August. The new schools are the critical component of the district’s plan to fix inequities. Due to low enrollment in the upper grades, several K-8 schools in the district fail to offer programming equivalent to that at most district middle schools. At the urging of an citizen advisory panel, the district decided to convert nearly all its K-8s back to K-5 elementary schools and middle schools.
To make room for all the elementary-aged students in the Beverly Cleary attendance zone, the district needs to reopen Rose City Park School as a neighborhood elementary school. So the district’s magnet school for highly gifted students, Access Academy, must move out of Rose City Park. The district had planned to split up the gifted school across multiple sites, but backlash from the Access community stopped that plan. Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, who had only been on the job for a few weeks, apologized to Access and pledged to find a different solution. The plan became to oust Pioneer and split that program across two or three sites so that Access could have a home.
Now, after months of uncertainty, tension and rumors, the district is back where it was before.
Read the announcement here:
The Pioneer program will remain at the Holladay-Youngson facility for the 2018-19 school year.
The decision came after District officials confirmed that construction and relocation cost estimates, combined with a lengthy required permitting process, raise too many questions about the feasibility of completing the work preparing two buildings for Pioneer students in time for next fall.
The District had been working on a plan to move Pioneer, which serves students with severe emotional disorders that make it impossible for them to succeed at a neighborhood school, to Rice and Applegate schools. The work to prepare these buildings was already on a compressed timeline, but the Superintendent has concluded it is no longer prudent to proceed with this process.
“In the past week it’s become clear to me that we need to leave Pioneer in place for next year,” said Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. “I believe this is the best choice as we work to create the best possible learning environments for all of our students.”
Because this decision affects other school communities, the District will begin the process of determining the best path forward that ensures all students are in a learning environment that puts them in a position to succeed. PPS officials will begin reaching out to those communities, including ACCESS Academy and the Head Start program at Applegate.
Since the plan was announced last November, the Pioneer community has raised important issues about the special needs of these students, and have provided valuable insight into the PPS planning process. The District is grateful for the input.