Portland board approves partial redistricting to solve school crowding problems

By Will Graff, The Forecaster
Posted July 01, 2013, at 1:10 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The School Board has approved a plan to alleviate overcrowding at Ocean Avenue Elementary, directing new students to other schools by partially redistricting neighborhoods.

On June 25, the board voted unanimously to partition some of the neighborhoods, allowing new students on Ocean Avenue’s outer boundaries to attend East End Community School and Hall Elementary School.

All new students who live in the East Bayside neighborhood in the areas between Preble and Franklin streets and Marginal Way and Commercial Street will now attend the East End school.

Additionally, all new students in the Libbytown neighborhood who live between Douglass Circle and Bradley Street and Brighton Avenue and Congress Street will attend Hall.

The decision will only affect new students, Peter Eglinton, the School Department’s chief operations officer, said at the board meeting.

East End and Hall will receive extra resources to help accommodate the new students, he said, and classroom sizes will remain at the appropriate levels dictated by the board.

Other elementary schools have similar enrollment levels as Ocean Avenue, but are better equipped to handle more students.

“Ocean Avenue is the most space constrained in terms of flexibility and use of that space,” Eglinton said. “That’s why the focus is there.”

The plan is a temporary fix while the board and administration await the outcome of a proposed $71.7 million elementary school renovation plan, which still has to go through the City Council and voters. Board members said full redistricting would likely take place after the plan is approved.

Portland is one of the few school districts in the state seeing growth at the elementary school level. Future enrollment projections put many of the schools at above 100 percent capacity in 2014, according to district figures. Ocean Avenue is projected to be the highest at 125 percent, followed by Reiche Elementary School at 120 percent capacity.

Eglinton said this plan will help keep the schools at or below 100 percent capacity and set up a better scenario for longer-term trends.

People who addressed the board at the meeting spoke in opposition to the board’s plan, calling it a “stop-gap” measure that could potentially still lead to overcrowding.

Bayside resident Angus King, who said he has two children attending Ocean Avenue, urged the board to consider complete redistricting, rather than partial, as a long-term goal.

“I think disadvantaging the entire school community by taking away an art class or having bigger classes for everybody, to me it doesn’t seem like the right solution,” he said at the meeting. “I think the long-term solution sounds better. It might be more painful, but in terms of ripping off a Band-Aid, it might be a better solution.”

CORRECTION:

Due to an editor’s error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Sen. Angus King. Sen. King does not live in Portland; the quote was from a different Angus King.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/07/01/news/portland/portland-board-approves-partial-redistricting-to-solve-school-crowding-problems/ printed on July 29, 2014