PORTLAND, Ore. -- People living in the Albina neighborhood say the closure of Harriet Tubman school has forced kids in their community to get bussed to schools all over the city. Now Portland Public Schools officials say they will open the school next fall.
Without a school at the heart of the historically African American neighborhood, community members say it's been difficult to form a strong community or promote parental involvement.
Ron Herndon with Albina Head Start says a couple years ago the decision was made to reopen Tubman. But last month the board of PPS cited safety concerns at the site, from lead to radon to air quality. That meant a possible delay in getting the school opened as planned next fall.
Herndon questioned why kids who attended Faubion recently attended the school, without the same concerns being brought up.
But on Tuesday the board decided to keep on-track to open the school, after further research showed no evidence the site would be dangerous for kids’ health.
At a community meeting Thursday in North Portland’s Center for Self Enhancement, neighbors were cautiously optimistic, saying they were glad to hear the plan is moving ahead but they're still hoping there won't be any more delays.
“We want to reaffirm, because they've done this back-and-forth before,” Herndon said. “And we just want to say that a commitment is a commitment, and a promise is a promise.”
“The Portland Public Schools Board of Education, and the district, are committed to opening Harriet Tubman as a comprehensive middle school, grades 6-8 for the fall of 2018,” Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero assured neighbors.
Guerrero said $11 million will be dedicated to renovating the school. And he added the only way it won't open as planned next fall is if testing shows the school is unsuitable.
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and other health regulators will talk to PPS on Friday about outdoor air quality testing at the school.