PPS plans to move gifted students, displace special ed kids

ACCESS Academy may move to Pioneer School

Pioneer School in Portland, November 29, 2017 (KOIN)
Pioneer School in Portland, November 29, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced a plan to save a program for gifted students in Portland schools, but that will mean closing a program that serves special ed students.

While parents of ACCESS Academy kids are happy their program remains intact, they’re upset their kids will displace the others at Pioneer School.

Portland mom Catherine Beckett was among the parents who fought to keep the 350 ACCESS Academy students together for next year.

“Certainly as ACCESS parents we’re very grateful to the superintendent for not shutting down our program,” Beckett said. But she is concerned that the needs of all students are met.

ACCESS students will move into buildings that now house the Pioneer School for students with severe learning disabilities. The space ACCESS now uses at Rose City Park Elementary will be used to solve overcrowding at Beverly Cleary Elementary.

But Pioneer special ed kids will have to move out of their buildings at SE 71st and Division to make room for the ACCESS kids. The K-5 students would move as a group to Applegate School.

Middle and high school students would go into conventional middle and high schools. Teachers from Pioneer would go with them but call the move devastating to their kids chances of success.

Pioneer teachers said it would be traumatizing and create safety concerns for their students.

“You’re talking about a lot of physical aggression, a lot of social needs. They’re just impacted on a daily basis by little triggers,” Pioneer teacher Dennis Moist told KOIN 6 News. “Sometimes it’s ripping things off the walls, today a staff member got punched in the face.”

Pioneer staff said they were told their buildings were not being used completely.

KOIN 6 News repeatedly asked for an interview with officials from PPS, but received word they would not comment. However, KOIN 6 News obtained the letter PPS sent to “Pioneer families and staff.”

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.