Less than a week after an emotional meeting
in which Benson High students forcefully argued to keep their school open, the Portland School Board has introduced a new option
: Moving Benson's career programs to Jefferson High's campus.
Martín González, a board member representing North Portland, proposed the idea at a work session this morning, and at a certain level, it makes sense. Students from the Jefferson neighborhood represent the largest contingent of incoming Benson students year after year. Here's what Portland Public Schools had to say about the idea this afternoon:
Today, the Portland School Board met in a work session to discuss Superintendent Smith's high school proposal. During the discussion, the board asked Superintendent Smith to explore a new board-generated idea that was not considered among the options staff analyzed: Merging Benson and Jefferson High Schools by moving the career-technical high school program to the Jefferson Campus.
Along with information from staff, the school board asked for input on this proposal from the community.
The School Board is considering Superintendent Carole Smith's high school action plan, which would create eight community comprehensive schools, convert the Marshall Campus into the site of a small focus school and have Benson shift to a half-time career-technical education center serving 11th and 12 grade students.
In most of the two-hour work session, the school board weighed the trade-offs of offering seven or eight community schools – including the number of students enrolled in each, the range of electives to be offered, and how the plan would be sustained in the face of potential state budget cuts in the future. Board members also discussed the trade-offs of Benson High School remaining a 9th through 12th grade school, acknowledging that a strong comprehensive and career technical education (CTE) program at the campus would likely require the closure of up to three current neighborhood schools.
Director Martin Gonzalez proposed moving Benson's district-wide, career and technical focus program, which serves grades 9-12, to the Jefferson campus. He noted that Benson has been proven to work well, particularly for students of color.
A majority of the board directors in attendance asked staff to review this scenario and return with enrollment projections for a CTE focus school at the Jefferson campus. Staff will analyze enrollment projection with a neighborhood attendance boundary, and without one.
Members will have an opportunity to provide input on the concept proposed at today's board meeting, as well as Superintendent Smith's proposal at upcoming meetings:
Community Meeting (sponsored by the Coalition of Communities of Color)Monday, May 17, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Self Enhancement Inc., 3920 North Kerby Ave.
District-wide Community Meeting, Tuesday, May 18, 7-9 p.m., at Roosevelt Campus, 6941 N Central St.
Community Meeting (co-sponsored by PTA) Saturday, May 22nd, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon Jefferson High School, 5210 North Kerby Ave.
Marshall Community Meeting, Thursday, May 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m.Marshall Campus, 3905 SE 91st Ave.
School board members at the work session included co-chairs Ruth Adkins and Trudy Sargent and directors Martin Gonzalez, Pam Knowles, Bobbie Regan and David Wynde. Director Dilafruz Williams and Student Representative Henry Johnson were not able to attend.