School board votes to close low enrollment schools
The Portland School Board affirmed Monday the closure of two north Portland Public Schools for the upcoming school year.
The board voted 6-1 to close Humboldt and transfer its students into Boise-Eliot School, and voted 5-2 to close Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Leadership Academy.
The closures were recommended by Superintendent Carole Smith because of low enrollment, and proposed as a way to address a $27.5 million funding gap after reductions in state and federal funding and lower-than-expected local property tax revenue.
Smith also proposed to fill the gap with $9.5 million in cuts to central academic and operational supports; the use of $7.2 million in reserves, and $10.4 million in school staffing reductions, which translates to 110 teaching positions.
“We’ve heard state legislators tell us that they provided stable funding for education, but not adequate funding,” said Board member Greg Belisle, who expressed concerns over the speed of the process affecting both schools this year.
Although he supported the decision to close Tubman and consolidate Humboldt, he said PPS wouldn’t be talking about the closures if there were better answers to the bigger question of statewide school funding.
Board member Matt Morton voted against the resolution. “We have had a number of people come forward to offer support,” he said. “We should allow time to explore whether these partnerships can help.”
Tubman students now must make the decision of where they will continue their education. The young woman will have the option to continue at the Jefferson Middle College for Advanced Studies or attend the community comprehensive high school in their neighborhood attendance area. Middle school students at Tubman would attend their neighborhood K-8 or middle school.
School district staff are working with families to explore transfer options, and the school board said yes to an amendment to also allow the Tubman middle grade students to attend a school together as a cohort.
Humboldt students will attend Boise-Eliot school for 2012-13.
The school district said it plans to continue to hunt for solutions for over- and under-enrolled schools in the city, including the Jefferson cluster next fall, when a long-term proposal for the Humboldt and Tubman buildings will also be developed.