Shrunk but Not Demolished 

High Schools Avoid Closure in Redesign

click to enlarge BENSON: Limiting enrollment

BENSON: Limiting enrollment

NO OUTRIGHT CLOSURES are on the horizon for Portland's high schools. However Marshall High School will shrink to become a magnet program and Benson Technical High School will limit its enrollment to 800 half-time juniors and seniors, who will be co-enrolled at one of the district's eight other high schools.

Those eight schools will become "community comprehensive" schools with balanced enrollment and a standard set of academic offerings. Students will be required to attend the community school in their part of town, unless they are accepted to the 400-student "focus option" program at Marshall.

For the first time, the district will also stop parents from transferring kids in gentrified neighborhoods to other schools across town. Transfers between schools will only be allowed under certain conditions, such as when a student wants to continue a language immersion track.

Portland Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Carole Smith fought back tears of apparent pride as she presented her 88-page recommendation to the Portland School Board on Monday, April 26.

"This will provide access to a strong and broad core curriculum for the first time to every child in the city," she said.

Smith also considered models that called for closing one or two additional schools, but decided to minimize the number of closures.

Some schools—like Roosevelt and the perennially neglected Jefferson—will start out with fewer students, around 900 compared to the other schools' 1,300.

Since school funding is allocated on a per-student basis, the district will need to provide a subsidy to those schools so they can offer the standardized academic programs.

"We're going to build up the programs there before we require people to attend them, says PPS spokesperson Matt Shelby.

Jefferson High will see an expansion of its college partnership program, in which students work toward credit from Portland Community College (PCC). Jefferson alumna and former staff member Angela Braxton-Johnson is hopeful about the redesign.

"An increased partnership with PCC would be amazing," she says. "And the increased core offerings, that's something that's been needed for a long time."

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