The Portland Public school board approved major changes Tuesday night aimed at relieving overcrowded schools on the west side schools.  Some of the changes came over the objections of parents. 

Some changes weren’t controversial – like moving the Odyssey program or changing the middle school for Maplewood Elementary.

Chair of the Portland Public Schools Board of Directors, Tom Koehler, and Board Director Amy Kohnstamm listen as parents testify about boundary changes and program moves for west-side schools, April 19, 2016.

Chair of the Portland Public Schools Board of Directors, Tom Koehler, and Board Director Amy Kohnstamm listen as parents testify about boundary changes and program moves for west-side schools, April 19, 2016.

Rob Manning/OPB

But parents opposed putting Chapman’s kindergarteners at a separate building. And Bridlemile parents fought against splitting up where their kids would go for middle school. Board member Mike Rosen couldn’t get support for what Bridlemile parents wanted: having families pick their middle schools.  

“The little thing that Bridlemile is asking for is manageable. And all I can think is it’s ignorance or spite,” Rosen said. “I just don’t get it.”  

Board member Amy Kohnstamm proposed the set of changes that the school board ultimately supported in a 5-2 vote. Rosen and Steve Buel voted “no”. Kohnstamm and Rosen had asked the district to look into what would happen if Bridlemile parents were allowed to choose between the two local middle schools, West Sylvan and Robert Gray, and the high schools, Lincoln and Wilson. 

Kohnstamm concluded that leaving such school assignments to parents would not solve overcrowding  and would set a bad precedent.  

“If we were to move that Bridlemile have that opportunity, we would have to make that available for every other school, throughout this process,” Kohnstamm said, looking ahead to looming decisions for many schools on Portland’s east side.  

Some west-side changes will start this fall, such as having Chapman Elementary’s kindergarteners attend school at The Ramona apartment building, about a mile away. Other changes, such as new middle school assignments, are being phased in. Boundary changes only affect students who are new to a school.