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September 07, 2008

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"One wonders whether Smith regrets the closure of so many elementary schools."

Improving high school offerings is not the only "input" over which the District has complete control. Another is reopening some of the schools they closed, starting with Rose City Park. The "baby bulge" is already here, which is why 8th-graders from Scott and Rigler are attending Madison. It is nothing short of insane to keep a school like RCP in mothballs when the closure resulted in 5 overcrowded schools in a circle around it!

The fact that the School Board ignores issues like this, which would be so easy to fix, is proof, at least for me, that they have no interest in helping our schoolchildren. They must have run for the Board for some other reason.

Yes, Rose City Park should be reopened. That was the most "unnatural death" I have ever seen. A beautiful vibrant community built around a school. Shuttered. To further Vicki Phillips career. It was and remains a travesty. Reopen Rose City!!

[Has anyone noticed operating similarities between Sarah Palin and Vicki Phillips? Separated at birth?]

I think it is important for us to let Carole Smith know that what she said to the City Club is something many of us have been waiting to hear. I hope she is turning an important corner and ready to lead us in the right direction.

I couldn't agree more with the Zarwen and trueblue about reopening Rose City Park. The overcrowding of schools surrounding it make it a necessity. It's closure is beginning to dissolve the neighborhood, which is full of small children. If the school is reopened, it will revive the neighborhood and allow children to form bonds with their peers within walking distance.

Ruth Adkins, are you reading? Is reopening Rose City something you can get behind? Are you ready to spend some political capital? If you don't, it will spend itself.

I just read the full text of Carole Smith's speech. When I think about what she said, and what I have been hearing about this issue over the last 6 months, I can't help concluding that the whole thing is a huge diversionary tactic by the school district, and esp. the Board, to get the public's attention off the K-8 fiasco. There has been some considerable spin about improvements in the K-8s, but all of us who have set foot in them know that nothing substantive has been done.

The k-8 reconfiguration is a failure. It is time to acknowledge that and begin to undo some of the damage that has been done.

REOPEN ROSE CITY!!

Can we mobilize around this issue? When? Where? Who? Let's start this thing!

In addition to overcrowded schools, the closure of Rose City Park also resulted in violations to the City's Zoning Code in at least two of the surrounding schools: Gregory Heights (now Roseway Heights) and Madison. The school district is not allowed to make most grade reconfigurations or to change the use of a school without getting a conditional use permit through a land use review that allows public comment. PPS didn't get a conditional use permit to change Gregory Heights from a middle school to a K-8 and they didn't get a conditional use permit to add 8th graders to Madison.

There has been a movement of parents across the district submitting complaints about zoning violations on PPS property to the city. (Other examples include adding Clark Elementary to Binnsmead middle school, expanding Tubman and Jefferson to 6-12 grade, changing Applegate from an elementary school to a "Family Welcome Center" for the northside, and there are lots more.) The city has acknowledged that PPS is in violation of the zoning code but they are now trying to change the code language rather than enforce it. The zoning code is supposed to help protect neighborhoods from the type of short-sighted planning that PPS has been doing, and the city is responsible for ensuring that the zoning code is enforced. Both PPS and the City are to blame for the mess the schools are in right now.

One of the quickest and most effective ways that anyone can protest the closure of Rose City Park would be to submit two zoning violation complaints against PPS for Gregory Heights/Roseway Heights and Madison High School. (Rose City Park isn't in violation of the zoning code since they haven't actually changed the use yet, but PPS would need to get a conditional use permit to use the building for anything other than an elementary or K-8 school.) A description of the zoning violations for Roseway Heights and Madison could be as simple as "Portland Public Schools changed the grade configuration of the school without getting the required conditional use permit." Addresses of the schools can be found at www.pps.k12.or.us. There are instructions for how to submit a complaint by phone, fax, letter, or online at https://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?c=34180 .

Parents and community members have also been testifying to the City and submitting complaints with the state's DLDC about the school closures and other changes that are in violation of the City's Zoning Code and City School Policy. We have official recourse to protest the closure of Rose City Park and other schools, but more people need to file zoning violations to let PPS and the City know that we want them to address this problem rather than sweeping it under the rug by changing the code language after PPS committed the violations. If parents and other public school supporters don't hold them accountable no one will.

Does the City think we are stupid? How does changing the code now erase the violations that were committed under current code? Are they somehow planning to make the new code retroactive or something?

Yes, that's exactly the city's plan unless they see that enough people are concerned about these school changes and zoning violations.

They have also changed and reinterpreted the fire code to allow some of the k-8 conversions to proceed without being impeded by trivial matters like the safety of children.

With regard to trueblue's statement about the firecode, is there evidence that this is true? I am inclined to believe it because the Beverly Cleary 2nd graders are now being housed in the Fernwood building. One of the reasons Hollyrood was kept open was that Fernwood did not meet the fire code for the K-2s. Were sprinklers added to the building or was the code changed? What happened (other than overcrowding which forced the 2nd graders out of the Hollyrood campus)? Is this what is safe for our children?

For anyone else who wants to submit zoning violation complaints with the city against PPS for the closure of Rose City Park as explained above by "Let's Mobilize!" here are the property addresses:

Roseway Heights (formerly Greg Heights),7334 NE Siskiyou
Madison, 2735 NE 82nd

Also, "Bevery Cleary @ Fernwood" is at 1915 NE 33RD, and more addresses for reconfigured schools can be found at https://www.pps.k12.or.us/schools-c/ under the pull-down menu to "choose a school fact page."

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