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Vote on Boundaries Committee June 18

The Board of Public Education is expected to vote on June 18, to establish a new Community Advisory Committee on Attendance Boundaries for PreK-8 Schools.

Community members will be invited to apply for the new committee, which will evaluate whether the district should redraw the enrollment boundaries for some or all of its elementary and middle schools to achieve more equitable enrollment and demographic balance. Also, the committee will consider whether changes should be made to the district’s current middle school model to better reflect current and future enrollment and better promote equity and achievement.

On June 4, the Board held a first reading and a workshop on a resolution to create the new committee. Board members decided then to revise the resolution to make it more focused. The Board is now slated to vote on the amended resolution at its meeting on Tuesday, June 18. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will be held virtually and in person at Casco Bay High School. View the agenda and joining information.

The Board believes that deep community participation and input is needed to achieve the best outcomes and solutions from this review, and encourages community members to apply. The Advisory Committee will consist of 12-14 members, including:

●       two members of the Board to be nominated by the Chair

●       two staff representatives to be recommended by PEA and/or BASE unions

●       two current students or recent alumni

●       two building leaders to be recommended by PAA

●       two parents/caretakers of current students

●       Two to four additional community members

The deadline to apply is July 31. The Board is seeking applicants who represent the diversity of backgrounds and experiences representative of the Portland Public Schools. After a review of the applicants by the Board’s Appointments Committee, the Board will appoint members of the committee in August, in time for them to begin their work at the start of 2024-2025 school year in September.

The committee will be charged with delivering a report of findings and recommendations to the Board by February 2025. If changes to the district’s pre-kindergarten to 8th-grade attendance boundaries and/or to the middle school model are recommended, that timeframe will allow for any decisions made to inform the budget process for the 2025-2026 school year.

The last time the district consolidated school boundaries or changed school configurations was during the mid-2000s. Since that time, the district’s demographics and enrollment patterns have changed substantially. There are significant imbalances in the enrollment of the district’s elementary middle schools and their demographics, which include students who are economically disadvantaged, experiencing homelessness and/or multilingual learners. Those imbalances contribute to inequities among the elementary schools and students.

For example, some schools have a population of 75% to 80% low-income students while others are in the 20% range. Also, some schools have many multilingual students who need English language learner (ELL) services while other schools have few such students.

Also, the district’s middle schools have more capacity than current enrollment justifies. That potentially provides the district with an opportunity to examine how to adjust middle school enrollment in a way that improves support, belonging, equity, and achievement for middle school students. In addition, right-sizing the district’s middle schools while strengthening its middle school model could also provide cost savings for the district.

One of the five priorities of the district’s proposed new Strategic Plan – which came before the Board for a first reading on June 4 and is slated for a final vote on June 18 – is “Systems: Streamlining Operations for Equity, Efficacy, and Accountability.”

That priority includes an initiative to “design and implement a sustainable multi-year financial model that enables PPS to successfully implement the strategic plan and equitably allocate resources across the district.” The review of preK-8 boundaries and the middle school model by the advisory committee would be a part of that initiative.