June 10th, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

High-School Redesign: Some PPS Freshmen in Limbo

Carole Smith
Last week's tweaks to Portland Public Schools' high-school redesign put hundreds of eighth-grade students in the district in limbo.

That's because Superintendent Carole Smith proposed eliminating the ninth grades at both Benson Polytechnic and Marshall high schools this fall on the assumption (now incredibly shaky) that the Portland School Board would approve her plan to turn Benson and Marshall into small focus-option schools in fall 2011.

The board is scheduled to discuss that plan at a work session this afternoon, and is supposed to vote on the redesign June 21. But given the latest surprises from the board -- that at least three members support a plan with seven not eight neighborhood campuses and that there isn't a majority of four votes for any one plan -- it's not clear what the board's next step will be and when a decision will be made.

Amid this confusion, Aletha Peyton, a mother of one eighth-grade student from the Marshall cluster, called WW. She offered one tale of what that limbo for students looks like. And it wasn't pretty.

Peyton's 14-year-old daughter Lyndsey is home-schooled currently. But the teen-ager wants to attend high school in PPS. If she were in ninth grade now, she would go to Marshall. But under the superintendent's redesign, Lyndsey would attend Madison High School in Northeast Portland in September -- just three months from now. As it stands now, Peyton is unsure where her daughter will go.

Madison's principal, Carla Randall, tells WW the high school is doing a bit of double-duty at the moment, preparing for the possibility that students from Harrison Park K-8 in Peyton's neighborhood will in fact head to Madison next year. The principal went to the school (formerly known as Clark @ Binnsmead) this morning to help eighth-graders there prepare schedules for next year. Just in case.

It's not just Marshall students in this dilemma. About 60 Madison-area students had planned to go to Benson next year, Randall says. They might not get that chance.

What to do about ninth grade at Benson and Marshall next year will be something School Board members discuss this afternoon. "They're definitely in limbo and we're all aware of that," says Bobbie Regan, one of PPS's seven board members. "There's urgency on a whole lot of fronts for us to make a decision."
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