Despite a unanimous vote Tuesday night to open the Roseway Heights and Harriet Tubman sites as middle schools, community leaders say they have lingering skepticism over the possibility of Tubman’s re-opening.

The Portland Public Schools Board voted Oct. 24 to move ahead with a plan to open the two middle schools to balance enrollment in the district.

Tubman would open, the board said, if the school passed health and safety reviews that it wants expedited. The decision hinged on “contingencies.”

“If we find later down the road that conditions are not going to be fixable in Tubman, we have pledged to each other that we are gonna say it out loud and that we are gonna pull the plug,” said Rita Moore, the board’s vice chair. 

That puts the district at the center of a balancing act. On the one hand, the PPS continues to reel from skepticism over whether a district that dropped the ball on lead in school drinking water can guarantee student health at a school next to a freeway. On the other hand are the needs of its historically underserved students of color who have had to bear the brunt of school closures in the past. 

On Thursday, when African-American community leaders planned to hold a press conference to address their skepticism, the district revealed more about the roadmap ahead for Tubman, seemingly to address concern over whether or not it would re-open in time for the 2018-19 school year. 

The statement said PPS Chief Operating Officer Jerry Vincent is “ramping up efforts” on Tubman, which includes a meeting with environmental regulators as early as Friday.

The district said it plans to have an action plan by Dec. 1. 

“Vincent also reported that the district has budgeted work to stabilize a hillside on campus that had caused concern about it potentially shifting,” the statement said. 

PPS’ board has been tasked with finding a school to house students in North and Northeast Portland — the heart of the city’s black community.