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Mayor Urges Portland Schools To Let Charter School Stay Put


Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler at City Hall.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler at City Hall.

Allison Frost/OPB

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is the latest area leader to call on Oregon’s largest school district to let a small charter school stay where it is.

Portland Public Schools’ expansive plan to reconfigure schools on the district’s east side includes forcing Kairos PDX to move from the Humboldt school building in North Portland.

Roughly two-thirds of Kairos students are African-American and the Humboldt building is in a historically black Portland neighborhood.

The district has proposed moving in ACCESS Academy — a program for students designated as “talented and gifted.” Most of those students are white.

It’s part of a complicated set of changes to relieve overcrowding and repurpose two buildings as middle schools.

Wheeler is urging PPS board members not to approve the move. In a letter, he said “this proposal conflicts with your stated goals around both equity and excellence.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler sent a letter Sept. 21, 2017 to the board of Portland Public Schools about a proposal to force Kairos PDX out of their home in North Portland.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler sent a letter Sept. 21, 2017 to the board of Portland Public Schools about a proposal to force Kairos PDX out of their home in North Portland.

Office of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

That follows similar concerns voiced this week by Speaker of the Oregon House Tina Kotek, D-Portland.

As reported earlier this week by the Portland Tribune, Kotek told school board members that ACCESS students were being prioritized “in a way that unnecessarily undermines the educational opportunity of predominately low-income students and students of color who are enrolled at KairosPDX.”

Kairos PDX opened in fall 2014, and spent the last school year at  Humboldt — a PPS building that closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

Kairos’ longevity at Humboldt was always in question for district officials, given the major reconfigurations underway in North and Northeast Portland.

But the school’s supporters point to its steady growth and focus on student groups that PPS struggles to educate, as reasons to keep the school in its current location.

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