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Portland Parents Make Threats As School Boundary Talks Continue

Chapman Elementary in Northwest Portland

Chapman Elementary in Northwest Portland

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

Portland has two main approaches to re-draw school boundaries on the city’s west side. And debate between parents backing each of those approaches has become increasingly heated.

The district’s controversial effort takes center stage Thursday at a meeting with Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith.

The goal of the boundary change is to relieve overcrowding, especially at Chapman Elementary and Lincoln High School, but proposed solutions have rankled different groups of parents.

The animosity between opponents of each approach has led to heated arguments on social media, veiled threats and pleas for civility.   

The district’s boundary committee has proposed moving a Spanish immersion program, among other changes, to open up space for students. The idea would be to move the Spanish program into the currently vacant East Sylvan building.

Opponents of that approach argue the Spanish program at Ainsworth Elementary is an institution at that school and runs most efficiently in a shared space with the Ainsworth neighborhood program. They also argue the Spanish program brings diversity to an otherwise predominantly white school.

A recent story from Willamette Week noted that the Spanish program benefits a great deal from private fundraising from area parents.

The plan predicated on moving Spanish immersion contrasts with the district’s initial scenarios, first rolled out last October. They involved a domino effect of boundary changes across much of the west side.

Opponents of those boundary changes argue they would affect a greater number of students overall, across a larger section of Portland, than moving the Spanish program. 

The district is also looking into possibly moving the Odyssey program — a social science-focused magnet — out of the Hayhurst school building.

Proposals have suggested moving Odyssey to East Sylvan (if the Ainsworth Spanish immersion doesn’t move there) or the Smith School building, which has been closed for years.

Odyssey parents have advocated for their own space, agreeing that Hayhurst is overcrowded with both the magnet and neighborhood programs.

Superintendent Smith scheduled Thursday’s meeting to get feedback from Spanish-speaking families in the language immersion program. The Portland school board makes the final decision on boundary changes later this year.

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