High school proposed changes announced tonight
As we listened to the announcement about changes to Portland Public Schools high schools from Carole Smith, PPS Superintendent tonight, we noted our thoughts and reactions. Please add yours in the comment section below.
The proposed changes to high schools were made with what Carole Smith called "an incredible opportunity for neighborhoods to reinvest in high schools." In talks with stakeholders, the common theme was "I want the whole thing [all the comprehensive core classes plus well-rounded electives plus engaging extracurriculars] and I want it close to home." These changes are to be effective in Fall 2011, after a process of community feedback and a chance for board debate. The final vote will be on June 21.
The way this is being created, Smith hopes, is through a series of "community comprehensive schools" whose boundaries have been slightly changed to better maintain the "cluster" approach to elementary, middle and high schools. These will be mostly as we all expected: Cleveland, Franklin, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Roosevelt and Wilson. Each will have things for which parents and students have asked from all schools, like a full advanced placement or international baccalaureate program, a full athletics, dance, and visual and performing arts program, and a lower counselor-to-student ratio.
Marshall, a school that has struggled mightily over the past decade, with at least two very radical approaches to school design, will be closed as it now stands. In its place will be "a new focus school built upon the strengths of PPS small schools would open on the campus to all students districtwide." (I'm not exactly sure what that means: I have taken a quick look at the presentation but would love more color from our commenters.)
Benson, a school that had its heyday in the eighties and early nineties and whose perceived quality and attendance has fallen significantly in the past few decades, will change, as well. "Benson Polytechnic High School would, in fall 2011, become an advanced learning center for career-related and technical learning experiences. 11th- and 12th-grade students across PPS would have the opportunity to apply to spend half their school day or week at Benson and half at their home school, to pursue an in-depth career or technical program."
Transfers will be much more limited than they are today; language immersion programs will be created by 2013 in Spanish (Franklin, Lincoln, Madison, Roosevelt); Japanese (Grant); Mandarin (Cleveland) and Russian (Franklin). Jefferson will offer a dance program. You can look up your address here to see if your neighborhood school(s) will change with the proposed new boundaries.