PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For months, Tony Hopson has heard the back-and-forth: would North Portland’s Harriet Tubman Middle School open next fall or not?
The possibility was called into question over air quality concerns. So Hopson and 3 other men decided to come together and ensure that Portland Public Schools does reopen the school on time. After Thursday, any concerns over whether the school wouldn’t reopen appear to be answered as the PPS board officially voted to open two new middle schools by the 2018-19 school year.
“I’m hopeful,” Hopson said after a Thursday meeting with the public that included PPS Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero, “(but skeptical. There’s a little bit of that just because there’s a history of distrust.”
The vote moved to establish Roseway Heights and Harriet Tubman as middle schools for students in grades 6-8. The board was ensured that complete health and safety screenings will take place at Harriet Tubman before its opening.
Boise-Eliot/Humboldt, Sabin, Irvington and Martin Luther King Jr. will covert from K-8 schools into K-5 elementary schools that send students to Harriet Tubman. The middle school will be put into the feeder pattern to the dual assignment zone of Grant and Jefferson High Schools.
The board also directed that ACCESS Academy be placed in a “bridge or permanent” facility that can hold about 350 students for the 2018-19 school year. The board originally voted to disband the program but it was saved after students and teachers protested.
Joe McFerrin, the CEO of Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, called the possible reopening of the Tubman Middle School a “bit of an emotional touch point.” Community members like Hopson and McFerrin have been pushing for a high quality middle school in the area for years.
“I hope the superintendent will join us in making sure that these things happen,” McFerrin said.
Guerrero said the target date for reopening Tubman never moved or wavered. He said the school board just wanted to make sure the date was even viable with air quality concerns. In the past, DEQ installed equipment detected unusually high levels of Cadmium.
After double checking, Guerrero said there aren’t any indications of anything they should be worried about. He also said the decision to move forward with the set target date was not at all political.
“There is the political will now and now there’s also the resources being set aside,” Guerrero said.
District officials will meet with DEQ and EPA representatives on Friday to get more testing done at the school, just in case they need to make any fixes or changes.
Hopson thinks he and other community members’ push to reopen the school made a difference.
“I definitely think that our push-back has certainly changed the game a little bit for now,” Hopson said.