PPH: School Choice ending in Portland


Seems competition is not working out for one of Portland’s high schools. Solution? Take away student choice.
Portland newcomers won’t pick high school
In order to even out enrollment, new students will be assigned to either Portland High or Deering.
By TREVOR MAXWELL Staff Writer August 23, 2007
When Portland schools open two weeks from today, about 100 high school students will be affected by a new policy aimed at reducing the enrollment gap between Deering and Portland high schools.
Traditionally, students in the district are free to choose between the two schools, each of which has its own history and culture.
The policy adopted by the School Committee in June preserves most of that tradition but does not allow school choice for students who are new to the district. Those newcomers — who number about 100 this fall — are assigned to one of the schools depending on where they live. A geographical line was drawn through the city, and those to the east must attend Portland, while those to the west attend Deering.
Kevin Mallory, transportation director for the schools, emphasized Wednesday that the policy does not affect students who are already enrolled in the district.
“If you are in the system right now, don’t worry about it,” Mallory said.
That means families with children in King Middle School, for example, can still choose a preferred high school. But a family who moved here over the summer or during the school year will not have that choice.

Of the 100 or so newcomers this fall, about 60 will attend Portland and about 40 will attend Deering, Mallory said.
The general idea of the policy is to reduce, or at least maintain, the enrollment gap between the schools. The projected enrollment for Deering stood at 1,260 on Wednesday, while the enrollment for Portland is 1,019. Deering’s enrollment was capped last year because it had topped 1,300 a year earlier.
School Committee member Ben Meiklejohn said he supports the new policy, which was proposed by Superintendent Mary Jo O’Connor and will be evaluated after the 2007-2008 school year.
“If you are going to draw the line somewhere, it shouldn’t be against the students” already living in Portland and enrolled in the schools, Meiklejohn said.
He said it is hard to figure out why families choose one school over the other. Because of rising property values, it has recently become much tougher for people with young children to relocate to the Portland peninsula, home to Portland High School on Cumberland Avenue.
Meiklejohn said there has been no discussion of eliminating the school choice tradition altogether.
Casco Bay High School, an expeditionary learning school, opened in 2005 and recruits students from throughout the city.

Hard to figure out why families choose one over the other? Maybe someone should find out? No, we just won’t give folks a choice – problem solved!