Overcrowding in the Grant Cluster: What Can Be (and Is Being) Done? (by Kelsey Robertson)

Note:  Kelsey emailed this post to me a few days ago and has been working in the Beverly Cleary Elementary school.  Her post was incredibly timely.  See her thoughts on what led to the most recent decision about the overcrowding in Beverly Cleary and see the February 3 Memo from PPS on the current solution here.  Kelsey’s post reminds me that notes from the field give us such an important viewpoint that is missing from mainstream media!  I look forward to hearing more from Kelsey and others of you who are working in our community!BevClearyschool

In August of 2012, when I took Zapoura’s capstone course Enhancing Youth Literacy, one of my goals was to find a job related to education. I’m happy to say that I have succeeded in that. I work at an organization that runs after school programs in various schools throughout the Portland Public School system. Working inside the schools has given me so much inspiration for blog posts, and I want to start by describing the biggest struggle my school is going through – overcrowding.

But first, a little bit of background.  Beverly Cleary Elementary,  the school that I work at, is unique in that it is split into two campuses: the K-1 campus (Hollyrood) and the 2-8 grade campus (Fernwood). The Beverly Cleary School (BCS) community feeds into Grant High School. These schools are frequently recognized for their success. However,  the surrounding neighborhood has grown faster than anyone anticipated, and now the three schools are scrambling to accommodate the large amount of students they must serve until a solution can be found.

I work at the Hollyrood campus of Beverly Cleary, which is the smallest school in PPS. If you can imagine what a hallway in an average size school looks like – just a long hallway with classrooms on either side – that is Hollyrood. We don’t have a gym, a cafeteria, or any other type of large space. The entire school is made up of 8 classrooms, a library (used for library time, computer lab time, and music class), and a small playground and covered area.

Last year there was an empty classroom used for the cafeteria space and the after school program, but in order to accommodate the high amount of incoming kindergardeners the school added another kindergarden class and converted that room into a classroom. Students now eat lunches in their own classrooms, and the after school program is based out of the library.  Our program has to borrow classrooms from teachers to feed our kiddos snack and run activities, as the library is not big enough to fit us all. Staff store our materials in the teachers lounge and a small shed just outside of the school. The Fernwood campus has similar struggles. Their staff headquarters is an old locker room, and they run their program from the cafeteria.

What can be done to accommodate the increasing amount of students? Currently, there are three options on the table:

  1. Create a 3rd Beverly Cleary campus at the Rose City Park building (a neighborhood school closed in 2007 that has been used off and on by PPS for different schools). This would add more space as well as 6 to 8 classrooms. The current split of grades between the two campuses would be adjusted.
  2. Implement a temporary boundary change, limited to the incoming kinder-2nd grade class of 2014. This would free up a small amount of classrooms in both of the BCS campuses. These students would be relocated to Irvington or Roseway Heights, depending on where they live. Depending on future growth of the school, there would be a possibility of returning to BCS.
  3. Create an enrollment cap. This would mean a possible kindergarden lottery and designating other neighborhood schools as overflow sites where other families could enroll. A few classrooms would free up in the BCS schools.

These options were presented at a meeting in mid January. The Powerpoint Presentation they presented has more info, and can be found at http://beverlyclearyschool.org/sites/default/files/bcs-overcrowding-ppt-1.16.14.pdf .

A decision is expected to be made in mid February. Personally, I think that the best solution would be creating a 3rd campus. While it would be complicated, it would create more space and allow continued growth. Part of the reason that the Grant schools are so overcrowded is the success of the schools themselves. Families move to the area for the high achievement rates, the parental involvement, and the hard working teachers that the BCS community is lucky to have. Creating a third campus would give more families access to the successful schools while reducing the strain on the teachers and the buildings.






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