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High School Choice

At its Sept. 20 meeting, the Portland Board of Public Education approved changing the district’s high school preference process, starting this fall.

Portland students traditionally are able to choose whether they want to attend Portland or Deering high schools. Casco Bay High School, which is smaller and enrolls only 100 students per grade, uses a lottery system if it has more than 95 applicants for its freshman class. Because Deering and Portland have no cap on the number of students admitted, this has led to fluctuations at those schools over time. Sometimes the fluctuations are very high, which has led to an unequal distribution of resources (such as staff and course offerings) between Portland and Deering and significant variance in the student composition, with PHS being less diverse than the district.

The change will begin with this year’s eighth-graders, the Class of 2027. The new high school preference plan will result in most students getting their first choice of school, but some will not because the plan is to limit the difference in enrollment between Deering and Portland to about 30 students and reduce demographic disparity between the schools.

At the meeting, the Board also held a first reading on a resolution pledging it to work with administration to take a closer look at  the fundamental issues that make a particular school attractive to students and how our high schools can be better aligned. The goal is to develop more consistent programming and opportunities for students across all three high schools and align different elements and aspects of the schools, such as schedules, transitions for ninth-graders and services for students who are English language learners.

The Board will hold a vote on the resolution at its next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 11. The 6 p.m. hybrid business meeting will take place in person at Casco Bay High School but you also attend via Zoom or stream live on our Facebook page. Closer to the date of the meeting, you can go to BoardDocs to view the agenda.

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