November 19th, 2009 | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools

An Update on K-8s in Portland

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A sub-committee of the Portland School Board met Monday to talk about the current state of Portland Public Schools' K-8s, the hybrid "elemiddles" Portland created starting in 2004.

Here's a quick take on the 90-minute meeting:

* The district recognizes some of the small K-8s may never be able to sustain the K-8 model. It's possible those K-8s won't stay K-8s forever.

*All K-8s in the district have bell schedules that are 15 minutes shorter than middle schools' bell schedules. This doesn't translate directly to 15 fewer instructional minutes (because schools in PPS are like snowflakes; every single one is different with different passing times, etc.) But the district would like all schools with sixth, seventh and eighth grades to start with the same number of minutes in the day, so they're considering "early recommendations." But "early" doesn't really seem like the right word; the district has been working on the problem for three years. And "recommendations" so far seems to mean only that the district recognizes a problem exists.

There's disagreement about why the problem exists. But one thing appears certain. PPS can't afford to send two sets of buses to K-8s to accommodate two schedules for K-5 students and 6-8 students. And there doesn't seem to be a clear (cost-effective) answer.

*Finally, Board Member Ruth Adkins had "urgent" words for PPS administrators. Looking at the data from administrators that showed K-8 students lacked access to geometry classes and generally had fewer enrichment classes, she wanted to know what administrators planned to do now to address the stark differences. That issue was left unresolved in the meeting. Superintendent Carole Smith's chief of staff seemed to indicate it might be better to start identifying possible improvements now -- for implementation next year.

*Adkins also asked the district to reconvene parents in public meetings like the ones around K-8s that happened in late 2007 and early 2008.
 
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