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Community Opposes Shrinking Schools

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AS THE PORTLAND School Board considers a resolution to close or shrink some high schools, it faces opposition from the public and from within its own ranks.

Around 15 people gathered outside the school board meeting on Monday, February 22, to protest a resolution drafted by Superintendent Carole Smith, which calls for reducing the number of neighborhood high schools.

The protesters are part of a group that formed months ago to oppose the possible closure of Grant High School, one of the most sought-after schools in the district. Their campaign has since expanded to defend all nine of Portland's neighborhood high schools.

"Closing high schools decimates neighborhoods," says Suzanne Goddyn, a parent and real estate agent who leads the anti-closure group.

The Portland School District estimates that it would cost an extra $4.5 million per year to develop the "comprehensive" curricula that the resolution calls for, while still keeping all the schools open.

"Let's assume that it costs that much," said School Board Director Martín González at the meeting. "Why don't you do it that way, then?"

"Because we don't have the money to spend," said Board Co-Chair Trudy Sargent.

"But what if you spend the money differently?" asked González.

"The $4.5 million figure is not enough to keep schools open," says Steve Rawley, who blogs about schools at ppsequity.org. "And even if it were, where's it going to come from?"

The school district appears wedded to the idea of closing schools. "I don't think it's very feasible to keep all the schools open," says Matt Shelby, a spokesperson for the district.

Bill Lazarus is the CEO of Seer Analytics, a Florida company that the district hired to process neighborhood data and recommend where high schools should be located. "There's a general presumption that you need to consolidate," he says. "We're looking at closing one or two or three schools."

But not all the board members are convinced. "I need more information to agree that we need fewer neighborhood schools," said Board Co-Chair Ruth Adkins.

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