Students fight for and save ACCESS Academy

PPS will find a new location for the special school

Students rally for Access Academy, October 16 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A special school for gifted students was saved from closing down for good after students and parents fought to keep it around.

The Portland Public School board wanted to disband the ACCESS Academy, a school for accelerated learners. The schools brings together a little more than 300 kids in grades 1-8 from all across Portland, but the building it calls home could serve more students if it was turned into a traditional K-5 school.

“There’s overcrowding in parts of the district but the student population is too low in other parts of the district,” PPS spokesman Dave Northfield said.

Students at Access Academy in Portland walk out in protest over a plan to close the school, October 17, 2017 (KOIN)
Students at Access Academy in Portland walk out in protest over a plan to close the school, October 17, 2017 (KOIN)

Students walked out of class on October 17 to protest the plan. Supporters argued that students benefit from ACCESS because it provides a challenging curriculum they weren’t getting in traditional classrooms.

“These are kids that have really struggled to fit in and have their needs met at their neighborhood schools for years,” parent Catherine Beckett told KOIN 6 News at the protest. “They’ve had to fight to get in here because it’s not big enough to accommodate all the kids who need it and they would be devastated if it closed.”

That got the board’s attention and after hearing from parents, teachers and students at a board meeting Tuesday night, the board voted to relocate the school instead of dispersing the students.

“The new superintendent made a strong effort to listen to the community, visit the school get to know that ACCESS community and realized that was a hasty decision,” Northfield said.

The students are eager to stick together not only for their educational value, but the friendships they’ve formed.

“Keeping the school together is an integral part of what the school is,” student Ben Price said.

The building will still be turned into a K-5 school, but instead of dispersing ACCESS Academy students, they’ll stay together in a new location.

“You can sort of let out your breath, but you can’t completely let it out because you still have to find a home for the school,” Price said.

The district is also considering putting ACCESS into 2 neighboring buildings or ones that are just a few blocks apart.

Parents, teachers and students from the ACCESS Academy fought for the school at a PPS board meeting on October 24, 2017. (KOIN)
Parents, teachers and students from the ACCESS Academy fought for the school at a PPS board meeting on October 24, 2017. (KOIN)