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Jefferson Cluster options due in January

December 18, 2012
Community conversations about reconfiguring PK-8 schools in the Jefferson Cluster to strengthen programs are leading to the release in January of concrete options for change. Public input will then inform the Superintendent's recommendation to the school board and a board vote expected in February.
Jefferson Cluster parents speaking 10 different languages learned about and shared their views on scenarios for balancing enrollment in their PK-8 schools Dec. 11 at Boise-Eliot-Humboldt School.
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Portland Public Schools is looking district-wide at where schools are too crowded or too under-enrolled to deliver a strong education to students. The district is taking steps to balance enrollment across schools – through boundary changes, reconfigurations and consolidations - so that all can offer the strongest possible program to students.

Underpinning the work is the fact that the number of students in a school determines the funding, staffing and resources that go to that school and therefore impacts the depth and breadth of the academic program offered there. Leadership, high quality instruction and strong school communities are essential to strong schools, yet a school with sufficient enrollment creates the foundation for success in terms of resources. 

The district began this work in 2010-11 with the Alameda/Sabin/Beaumont/Rigler school communities in Northeast Portland. Last spring, the work moved to the Llewellyn and Duniway school communities in Southeast Portland.

Work shifts to Jefferson Cluster
PPS consolidated Humboldt PK-8 School with Boise-Eliot PK-8 School and closed the Young Women's Leadership Academy at Harriet Tubman in June when budget-related staffing cuts made it unviable to offer a full academic program to students. Both struggled with low enrollment, with Humboldt's enrollment being the lowest among PK-8/K-8s in the district. 

In the summer, the district formed a community-based planning team in the larger Jefferson Cluster, held meetings at each school in the fall and then a series of cluster-wide meetings after the release of six scenarios for how to reconfigure the schools.

Community voices
At cluster-wide meetings Dec. 4 and 5 at Beach and Faubion schools, parents showed support for the existing K-8 schools yet some also said they'd like to see what a "rock star" middle school would look like - and what it would take in terms of changing K-8s to K-5s to get there.

An ESL Parent Meeting Dec. 11 at Boise-Eliot drew 100 parents and community members speaking 10 languages ranging from Spanish to Amharic, a language spoken in Ethiopia.

Parents spoke to their values. Some families said they like having their younger and older children together in school, as they are in K-8s, and that they value walking to school. Others said they want to see PPS strengthen the schools without putting the burden of disruption on the families.

Next steps
PPS extended the period for feedback from Dec. 12 to Dec. 19 and has begun the work of incorporating feedback to mold two or three concrete options for change. The options will be completed and mailed to school families in January for community discussion.

The Superintendent is expected to take one recommendation to the school board for a public hearing and a February vote. Implementation of any approved changes would begin in Fall 2013.


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