Teacher discusses concerns with moving Portland's Pioneer Special School Program

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A special education teacher with Portland Public Schools is sharing her concerns over a district proposal to move students out of their building in order to move other students in.

The Pioneer Special School Program on Southeast 71st Avenue near Division Street serves special education students from kindergarten through high school who aren’t able to be as successful in other school environments.

For instance, they may have developmental disabilities, behavioral issues or individual needs that are best met by personalized instruction and services.

There’s now a proposal to move those students to two other buildings, Applegate and Rice, in order to make room for the Access Academy, which is part of the “Talented and Gifted” program.

One Pioneer teacher told FOX 12 she is concerned about safety issues at the other buildings, as well as what she considers unfair treatment based on student abilities.

“I think the superintendent thought he could move us and we wouldn’t put up that much of a fight, our parent base isn’t as strong as Access’s and it definitely feels like discrimination,” said teacher Laramie Babbitt.

The district reports the move is part of a much larger years-long process to reopen two middle schools and address overcrowding issues.

To accomplish that, the Access Academy has to move and the district looked at a number of other facilities to make that happen, but a Portland Public Schools spokesperson said there just isn’t a better option.

A contracting firm has been hired to address safety upgrades at Rice and Applegate.

“Many needed improvements have been identified at both Rice and Applegate, including upgraded windows, fence repairs, and the identification of de-escalation areas. A design-build contracting firm has been hired to assess the upgrade work needed at the two sites. PPS does not see the solution to the district’s limitations in available classroom space as a situation that pits one school community against another. Rather, PPS leaders are working hard to resolve this dilemma, to deliver a high quality education to all of our students, including those with unique talents and abilities,” according to a district statement.

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