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Families rally to save Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in NE Portland

Hundreds rallied to encourage district officials to take the school out of consideration as a possible relocation site for Harriet Tubman Middle School.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Hundreds of parents and students rallied outside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Northeast Portland on Friday. Their goal was encouraging district officials to take the school out of consideration as a possible relocation site for Harriet Tubman Middle School.

“If we shut down this school then I won't be able to come here anymore,” said second-grader Honesty Davis. “There's no other good schools that I think I can go to that's good as this school.”

The state approved plans to widen part of Interstate 5 near the Rose Quarter, which would bring it closer to Tubman Middle School. If that happens, the district said it would want to move the school because of concerns over noise and air quality.

“Ultimately, the decision to relocate Tubman will be made by the [Portland Public Schools] Board of Education. No time table has been established as to when this decision will be made, and many discussions need to take place before a decision can be made,” said PPS Chief Operating Officer Dan Jung in a statement to KGW. “PPS values and will rely upon the input of all impacted community members before making any decisions.”

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The district is considering two options for Tubman: purchase new land on which to build a new middle school or convert an existing district-owned site within the Albina community. 

PPS owns seven properties within the Tubman catchment area: the Blanchard Education Service Center central office, Jefferson High, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Boise-Eliot/Humboldt Elementary School, Harriet Tubman, Irvington and Sabin.

“Those sites may or may not be viable options for relocation, and that analysis would need to be completed before a recommendation was made to the Board of Education,” said Jung.

In the meantime, community members are upset that Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School is even on the table. The school is considered one of, if not the first school in the nation named after the civil rights leader following his assassination.

“I went here, my children went here and I had grandchildren who went here,” said neighbor Rosie Willis. “This is a legacy. Why — why would you do that?”

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Meanwhile, a group of volunteers of all ages took part in 'King Clean Up' on Sunday. The group walked from Covenant Church to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary to clean up the neighborhood in honor of the civil rights leader's legacy. Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a community service organization, helped coordinate the track pick-up day. 

The PTA president of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary said there is a direct connection between the cleanup and the effort to preserve the school named in Dr. King's honor.

"I think the school mirrors everything that his dream was and people of all ethnic backgrounds working together and accomplishing a dream," said Tyler Brown, PTA president.