The Portland Public School’s Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Enrollment and Transfer (SACET) met with several Brooklyn Neighborhood families last week to discuss an alternative to having Grout Elementary School be our neighborhood school. Parents in the Brooklyn neighborhood had recently asked PPS representatives attending a neighborhood association meeting to allow Brooklyn resident children priority into Winterhaven School. SACET is asked to review data, listen to various perspectives on the issue, and advise on potential actions the district could take. Since Brooklyn has been included in the Grout boundary since the closure of Brooklyn School in 2002, a meeting was convened at Grout School, and members of Brooklyn neighborhood, along with Grout and Winterhaven Schools, were invited to attend and share their perspectives. Student enrollment data for Brooklyn and the remainder of Grout neighborhood were provided, along with enrollment at Winterhaven by neighborhood school.
SACET members heard testimony from numerous community members. A summary of their statements, including written comments submitted at the meeting, are attached to this document.
Neeley Wells led the committee through discussion that included additional dialogue with community members. SACET members raised several points:
Asked for clarification about transportation, and learned that yellow bus service is provided from Brooklyn to Grout.
Asked what types of preferences should be in place if a neighborhood set-aside at Winterhaven was not large enough to accommodate all Brooklyn applicants. Expressed an interest in a neighborhood preference, but asked, “at what cost”?
Noted that district’s move towards larger schools, and that, if Winterhaven were relocated and the building reopened as a neighborhood school, the building would be too small to meet size target, the neighborhood does not have enough students to fill the school and Grout would be too small to be sustainable.
Teletha Benjamin and Jeff Hammond spoke of personal experiences with closures and mergers, and the benefit of having as many people as possible commit to the new school so that it can be stronger than the two schools were when separated. Ms. Benjamin encouraged community members to be willing to take a step back from where they are now and to be open to compromise.
Regional Administrator Larry Dashiell added that PPS used to have 72,000 students, and now has closer to 45,000. Population changes bring challenges, and a global perspective is needed. He complemented principal Susan McElroy on her great team that is accomplishing so much at Grout.
On further discussion, members agreed that the Brooklyn neighborhood request fits within broader questions about location and enrollment issues at focus schools. They agreed to incorporate this issue into their further work on enrollment & transfer priorities, which was tabled until their next meeting.
SACET members then heard and briefly discussed updates on the status of the Long Range Facility Plan, capital bond planning and consolidation and closure in the Jefferson Cluster.
Members agreed to hold the next SACET meeting Tuesday, June 19th beginning at 5:30 pm at BESC. Specific room location will be sent in advance of the meeting.
The meeting was closed at 8:40 pm.
Meeting summary submitted by Judy Brennan
SUMMARY OF VERBAL COMMENTS
Importance of neighborhood school
Brooklyn neighborhood families do not have access to a neighborhood school. Families move away because of this, causing transience. This is no way to build a neighborhood.
The City’s direction for 20 minute neighborhoods could happen in Brooklyn. It is an affordable neighborhood that may get increased families when light rail goes in.
The neighborhood make-up has changed and there are more young families now.Our neighborhood would be stronger if families who moved in stayed to attend the neighborhood school.
Brooklyn residents want to support Grout, but don’t consider it part of our neighborhood. Grout feels physically isolated. As a proponent for neighborhood schools, would like to see access to the school in our neighborhood.
We live across the street from the school. We are there when other families have gone home for the summer. We have nothing against the Grout area, but it is not our neighborhood..
Many Brooklyn families are at Grout, but would also like preference to Winterhaven, because it is so close to where we live, and we can bike and walk there.
Grout is not a school we can walk to. There are three ways to cross the railyards and none are safe. It is frightening to bike to Grout. But we walk past Winterhaven every day.
The Winterhaven program doesn’t take neighborhood students because it is an accelerated program that serves the whole district. If all the neighborhood kids came, it would not be Winterhaven any more.
Could Winterhaven change to a K-5 school so that more neighborhood students could attend? Could a certain # of slots be set aside for Brooklyn residents?
Could Winterhaven have a little higher class sizes or be a little more crowded?
Some families prefer focus options like immersion. When families can’t attend their closest school, they make other decisions that they feel are best for them.
Concerns about Grout
Many Brooklyn students do not go to Grout. Some wonder if it is next on the closure list. Some feel that Grout is not a great school for their student, because it doesn’t have a reputation like Abernethy and Llewellyn. When I came to Grout I heard nothing about support for at/above-grade level students.
Support for Grout
I will send my daughter to Grout, but I want my neighborhood to be strong, as well. Grout on paper looks challenging, but in person looks awesome. More kids here would equal music and PE. My child would go to school here with 50 other students from Brooklyn. Grout’s principal was named PTA’s principal of the year. There are outstanding programs and teachers. Don’t judge just on the railroad tracks.
- I strongly believe in neighborhood schools and understand they have to be big enough to be financially viable. My concern for Winterhaven is that it has already been changed by automatic sibling acceptance since not all siblings are ready for an accelerated program. If we also accept neighbors automatically, the makeup of kids ready for accelerated curriculum would potentially be impacted. Some years we only accept 8-10 kindergarteners and the rest of the 24 are siblings. If a neighborhood school at that location is highly valued, it would need to continue to attract lots of students from outside the neighborhood and Winterhaven may not be the best way to do that. Perhaps a different focus?
- Would it even be considered to have Winterhaven middle school (6,7,8) at another location so there could be a co-school? K-5 (one neighborhood room, one focus room).
- Suggestion: Move the Winterhaven 6,7,8 program to another middle school making room for twice as many K-5 kids.
- Suggestion: I don’t necessarily need a neighborhood school. But I can compromise and would like a neighborhood preference at Winterhaven.
- Brooklyn has such a strong community – from friendships between families, block parties, watching out for one another at the park and neighborhood watch. We’ve had so many small children and young families move in, priming the neighborhood for continued improvement. We need and deserve a better public school option than Grout – closer, better quality, more community based. Please help us find a creative solution that allows our neighborhood and children [to] blossom.
- I would like to make two points from a Winterhaven perspective:
a) Winterhaven families have made a major commitment to the math/science majority. An excess concentration from the local neighborhood motivated by convenience and locality, risks undercutting Winterhaven’s math/science mission.
b) Winterhaven draws from the overall district, and diversity is risked by high concentration of local families. Winterhaven likes the diversity in this Portland-wide draw.
- I’m not sure Winterhaven would be the best option for my child, nor am I as worried about a neighborhood school. When I look at all the schools (elementary) in inner SE all have outstanding ratings but Grout. That’s what I would like to see change.
- a) Has the committee considered adding a focus option to Grout?
b) I think a language or World Studies program would be an addition that should be considered for Grout.
c) Make this a school that parents want to attend.
- Ideas for solutions:
a) Shift Winterhaven to a K-5 and open up one additional class at each grade level, then preference 50% of slots for neighborhood kids.
b) If Winterhaven building can’t sustain the number of kids wantin to attend, move Winterhaven to a larger school building, like Grout and then make the old Brooklyn school a neighborhood school.
c) If nothing changes, the compromise should be that some preference is offered to Brooklyn residents.
- a) Is Winterhaven large enough to service PPS? There are many families that apply and can’t get in.
b) Should the district be offering an “advanced” or accelerated math/science school, or reinvest in math/science at all schools.
c) How is family preference fair? This should be an equal chance for each child.
- I believe the Brooklyn community would feel a solid compromise would be to guarantee a set amount of Winterhaven spots for Brooklyn resident children. Keep the magnet school and keep the community! Please!!!
- Suggestion: Make Winterhaven K-5 so that more slots are available for K-5 ages and allow neighborhood preference.
- Thank you so much for your time and commitment. I recognize the difficult bind we all are in. Offering some preference for Brooklyn residents/kids at Winterhaven is a vital option which will keep the Brooklyn community alive and well for future generations.