School District Hopes to Ease Jefferson High Upperclassmen Commutes With Expanded PCC Offerings

Juniors and seniors might be able to spend one to two days per week at the college.

A glimmer of hope appeared Wednesday night for Jefferson High School families despondent over their campus closing for renovation next year.

Portland Public Schools has already nixed the idea of a full move of Jefferson students to Portland Community College’s Cascade campus just across North Killingsworth Street. Instead, students will travel to Marshall High School on Southeast 91st Avenue during their historic building’s $300 million renovation, which lasts from 2024 to 2027.

But at a School Board committee meeting, Steve Effros, senior project manager for the Jefferson modernization, announced that PPS is working with PCC to expand the Middle College for Advanced Studies program.

“That really could create a scenario where both juniors and seniors could have less travel time between Jefferson at the Marshall campus and the PCC campuses,” Effros said.

The Middle College program allows Jefferson students to take PCC classes and graduate high school with more than a year’s worth of college credits. Currently, Jefferson students can take up to five credits per term of any 100- or 200-level course on the Cascade campus for free, books and fees included.

Effros announced the potential increase in Middle College class offerings while reiterating that “the PCC option is not possible” and that it’s not just about zoning issues. A high school is not just classrooms; a true “swing site” for Jefferson would also need athletic facilities, a cafeteria, and assembly and administrative spaces.

The Office of School Modernization and PCC are meeting to work out a situation where perhaps 80 to 100 upperclassmen would spend one to two full days a week on the PCC campus. PCC is amenable to that idea, as well as hosting some athletic events, according to an OSM employee.

It’s all still in the works, though, according to OSM’s Kiesha Locklear at the facilities and operations committee meeting: “We’re just trying to get everyone to the table to figure out their needs and the logistics of this idea,” Locklear said.

Tony Hopson, CEO of the social services nonprofit Self-Enhancement Inc., says it’s too little, too late.

“It won’t make a significant difference that there’s more classes,” Hopson says. “The opportunity to stay in the neighborhood and go across the street as opposed to going out to Marshall full time would be the difference.”

However, the ink appears dry on the move to Marshall. Locklear’s team is busy developing ways to introduce the Marshall campus to the Jefferson community, including a 3D walkthrough and in-person tours for families.

“We’re trying to ensure as smooth as possible of a transition and return back to the newly modernized Jeff,” Locklear said.

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