UPDATE (Oct. 25) -- The PPS board on Oct. 24 voted to open two middle schools, at Roseway Heights and Harriet Tubman, by the 2018-19 school year.
Board chair Julia Brim-Edwards added an amendment that, among other things, encouraged "efforts to be made" to keep ACCESS Academy, which is currently housed in the Rose City Park building, in one building, while leaving the option to housed the talented and gifted program in "adjacent or nearby sites."
Original story below.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Dozens of students and parents from ACCESS Academy rallied outside Portland Public Schools' offices Monday night to oppose proposed changes to their school.
PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero has proposed dissolving ACCESS and dispersing its 335 students to eight different area public schools in an effort to relieve overcrowding at other schools.
Wearing green ACCESS Academy shirts, the group shouted “Save our School” and held signs showing support for the school. ACCESS serves as a school for talented and gifted students who learn at advanced levels.
“I was really scared,” said Amelia Kotamarti, an 8th grader at ACCESS, when she heard of the proposal. “I want ACCESS to stay together as a community.”
Michael McGarry, whose daughter is a 6th grader at ACCESS, expressed shock too. “We were devastated, really. We had waited so many years and worked so hard to have her qualify and enter this school,” McGarry said. “To think of this possibly being dissolved is just shocking.”
In a memo sent to the PPS Board of Directors last week, Guerrero outlined the reasons behind the proposal.
“As the District moves forward on the important mission of opening two new middle schools in the Madison and Grant/Jefferson clusters, and reconfiguring a number of K-8 schools as elementary feeders, it is accelerating the path to this alternative model,” wrote Guerrero. Calling the proposed change a move to a “regional service delivery model” for talented and gifted students, Guerrero wrote that “The new ACCESS Pathways model would create the necessary conditions for PPS to serve students in more content areas, expand services to more students who exhibit exceptional learning abilities and styles.”
Under the plan, the Rose City Park building, which is the current home of ACCESS, would be converted into a traditional neighborhood K-5 school.
While the students from ACCESS would still receive specialized learning under the proposal, some parents questioned if the quality of their kids’ education would change.
“If they’re going to shut down ACCESS, or if they’re going to divide access into a number of smaller schools, will they be able to provide the services?” said Brian Conley, an ACCESS parent. “They need to have a peer group that’s more similar to them and has similar needs.”
“We were shocked to see such a drastic change of how they were going to meet the needs of students at ACCESS,” said Nicole Iroz-Elardo, whose son is a 4th grader at ACCESS. “There’s some big logistical issues if you split up ACCESS.”
Some parents also questioned the planned timeline of the proposal. Guerrero wrote that the changes would take effect beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
“They hadn’t done the due diligence to figure out how to staff the program, how would they cover the supports that kids need?” questioned Conley.
Iroz-Elardo called the timeline “incredibly aggressive.”
The PPS board is set to vote on the proposal on Oct. 24.