April 27th, 2010 5:33 pm | by Peter Griffin News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

High School Redesign: Benson Students Protest Changes By Staging Walkout

Student Walkout

Hundreds of students walked out of Benson Polytechnic High School this afternoon to protest the proposed high-school redesign released last night by Portland Public Schools' Superintendent Carole Smith. As WW reported last night, the long-awaited redesign would bring dramatic changes to Benson, the one school some in Portland assumed was safe from harm.

As we learned last night, that's not the case. If the Portland School Board approves Smith's plan in June when the redesign goes to the board for a vote, Benson will no longer be a four-year high school staring in 2011. Instead it will be a career exploration center open to students in just 11th and 12th grades across the district.

Around 1 pm today students gathered on the school's front steps in inner Northeast Portland, carrying signs that said "Keep Benson Alive" and "Way too much history." They also created impromptu cheers in support of their school, and the school's front windows displayed a row of large signs that said, "Why ruin the school that works?"

In an unusual twist for a student walkout, Benson Principal Steve Olczak stood with the teenagers. "I think these kids are great," he said. "[The walkout] was completely student generated."

Principal Olczak Walkout

While speaking briefly to the media, Olczak said he expected there would be serious cuts to high schools in the district as part of the redesign. But he was disappointed that the cuts had to be at Benson. Months ago he told WW he felt Benson was relatively safe from major transformation.

Today's walkout lasted only about 45 minutes. The students then returned to class.
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