Portland Public Schools has abandoned its controversial plan to move the Pioneer Special School from its campus in Southeast Portland and split up its students and staff to at least two buildings by next fall.
“Given new information, PPS District leaders have decided the Pioneer Program will remain at the Holladay-Youngson facility for the 2018-19 school year,” said a statement from Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero posted to the district’s website.
The announcement Friday pointed to the costs of upgrading the future sites of the Pioneer school and the short time frame for getting required permits.
“The District has recently confirmed construction and relocation cost estimates, and the timeline for an expedited permitting process; we do not now believe we can reasonably prepare the Applegate and Rice buildings to accommodate the unique needs of Pioneer students by the Fall 2018,” Guerrero said in a statement.
Moving Pioneer had been fiercely opposed by many parents and staff members since the relocation was announced last fall. Guerrero thanked parents for raising “important issues about the special needs of these students.”
But Pioneer parents have said the district was not adequately involving the community in discussions of the move and, until now, said they felt mostly ignored.
On Thursday, parents filed for an injunction to block the proposed move in federal district court. A statement from those parents suggests they’re not entirely satisfied with the district’s decision, since it only commits to keeping Pioneer in place for one school year.
“Pioneer remaining at its current location just for the next school year isn’t enough,” said the statement sent to OPB by Pioneer parent Lisa Jensen.
“Holladay-Youngson was built for the needs of Pioneer students and it should be our permanent home,” the statement continued. “I hope this is a lesson to PPS that facilities problems cannot be solved on the backs of disabled children.”
Pioneer is one piece of a more complicated puzzle involving multiple school moves. Keeping Pioneer in place now raises questions about where the ACCESS Academy for highly gifted students will go. ACCESS is located at the Rose City Park school building in Northeast Portland, but the district’s broader plan for schools in that part of the city call for Rose City Park to become a neighborhood school, without room for ACCESS.
The district says it will “begin reaching out” to ACCESS and other affected school communities. Those discussions will also include the Head Start program at Applegate and the Rice school program. Those facilities were slated to be home for Pioneer, until Friday’s announcement.