• Changes at Pioneer and ACCESS programs

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    As most people are now aware, the PPS Board of Education recently approved the decision to open two new comprehensive middle schools, at Harriet Tubman and Roseway Heights, for the fall of 2018. As a result, a number of feeder schools will be reconfigured from K-8 to K-5 campuses. Opening Rose City Park as an elementary school means that ACCESS Academy would require another location. The Board directed Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero to identify a single new site for the 350 ACCESS students. Senior district leaders from various departments, including Facilities and Special Education, completed a thorough analysis of all district facilities to determine sites that may be under-enrolled or under-utilized. 

    The Holladay Park-Youngson complex was identified as the best option for ACCESS. The building has a capacity for at least 350 students (and was an elementary school in the past) and has other important assets such as a gym and schoolyard. It was determined to be the best fit among available options. 

    This prompted district leaders to consider a location or multiple locations that could house and best support the smaller number of Pioneer program students. Currently, there are 123 students (56 elementary age, 43 middle grades, and 24 high school) enrolled in the Pioneer program, all at the same site. 

    District leaders are committed to supporting all PPS students. This includes supporting students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment. Leaders are also committed to providing the most robust supports and interventions that can be made available to students with the greatest needs. It has also been a long-term goal, outlined in the PPS Special Education Strategic Plan, that the school system provides the fullest possible continuum of supports and interventions at as many schools as possible. This permits students with Individualized Education Programs (IEP) to receive services in their neighborhood schools alongside their general education peers, as appropriate.

    While it is a goal to encourage more inclusive practices in all our school communities, some students may require a more substantially separate education given their intensive needs. For students who may not be able to be successful in a comprehensive secondary school, PPS has always worked with families to determine if a more restrictive and therapeutic school option is most appropriate; this includes education options with the Multnomah Education School District. PPS is also continuing to explore if a smaller scale program can be established to serve groups of students, by level, at another district location where more intensive supports can be provided. We are interested in attempting to keep the widest continuum of programming feasible, given facility constraints in the district.

    The 56 elementary-age Pioneer students will be relocated as a group to the Applegate campus for fall 2018. This elementary-focused site will continue to benefit from the staffing levels currently provided by PPS, as identified on students’ IEPs. The student-to-educator ratio will remain as 1.4 to 1. The Applegate campus will be configured to ensure that appropriate classroom and supportive spaces are available to students. A dedicated site principal will continue to provide leadership.

    Pioneer’s secondary-level students will be provided services by a cross section of special education teachers and support staff in dedicated classrooms located at various comprehensive middle schools and at the Marshall High School campus in fall 2018. It has been a goal of PPS to provide a more expanded continuum of services and supports at all school campuses. Being placed in neighborhood schools also affords special education students the opportunity, as appropriate, to participate in expanded programming and mainstreaming opportunities available at comprehensive campuses.

    Middle-schoolers will be integrated into unique classrooms with a teacher, two para-educators, a therapeutic intervention coach, and a full-time qualified mental health provider. Middle and high school principals are committed to preparing for and positively receiving Pioneer students. Training and professional development will be provided to support all school communities to better understand the unique needs of Pioneer students.

    In addition to his experience in leading special education delivery models, Superintendent Guerrero relied on the expertise of many district leaders. Student Services Senior Director Mary Pearson, Special Education Director Robert Cantrell, and Pioneer Principal Mike LaFramboise have all provided input and their best thinking. All are very familiar with the history and evolution of the Pioneer program. This arrangement has the potential to become a more optimal teaching and learning environment and to improve the educational experience and historically-low academic outcomes of students. Staff from PPS Facilities will continue to assess and provide the best possible environment for students.

    PPS leaders have started to meet with principals and faculties involved in this change and have also scheduled a meeting with Pioneer families to provide information more directly. Families will be kept up to date and be given ample opportunities to provide input and feedback between now and the fall. PPS leaders have already committed to meeting with the broader special education parent groups to discuss their ongoing efforts at better serving students with disabilities. Updates will also be posted on the district's main web page moving forward.