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School Reconfiguration Not Recommended

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School Reconfiguration Not Recommended
Posted on 03/15/2019
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This past fall, the Portland Board of Public Education created an Enrollment and Facility Study Commission to identify and recommend possible cost-saving efficiencies in school usage to address projected declines in state aid. The Commission voted on March 13 to recommend that the Board not consider any reconfigurations of district buildings at the present time.

The Commission evaluated multiple options for using the district’s schools more efficiently. However, it concluded that all the options would impact educational programming and require further analysis in light of education policy and district goals, not just budgetary concerns. The Commission concluded that such an analysis was beyond the scope of its charge, so could not recommend any reconfiguration option at this time. It suggested that the district could consider ways to use available space at the high schools to incorporate school administrative offices and Portland Adult Education.

The Commission had initially recommended one of the school consolidation plans “only if necessary” in the event of a large budget shortfall. Such a shortfall appears unlikely in the upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget, and comments at a public hearing highlighted the significant disruption to educational programming and to the community that could result from the plan. As a result, the Commission ultimately decided to not recommend any of the options.

The Enrollment and Facility Study Commission – made up of school board members, city councilors, district staff, and community members – has been working steadily since October to develop a recommendation to the Board by the start of this year’s FY 2020 budget process, which begins when the superintendent presents a budget proposal to the Board on Tuesday, March 19.

In its work, the Commission determined that the district’s enrollment is projected to hold steady through 2025 and that its elementary schools are operating fairly efficiently.

Despite the recommendation not to consider reconfiguration at this time, Superintendent Xavier Botana noted that the Commission’s work has been invaluable. “For the past two budget cycles, I have been asked if consolidations and other building-based efficiencies were possible. The Commission’s work this fall has highlighted the opportunities and challenges associated with any consolidation option,” he said.

Botana also thanked Commission members for their willingness to serve and their commitment to exploring uncomfortable options in an effort to understand what was possible. Botana added, “The work the Commission has done does not go away.  As we continue to look at options for more efficient use of our facilities, the Enrollment and Facility Study Commission’s report will provide a baseline of data and options for our consideration.”

To read the Commission’s recommendation statement to the Board click HERE.