• Pioneer Questions and Answers


    Last fall, the Portland Public School Board of Directors approved a policy to provide a more equitable and comprehensive middle grade education services to more than 1,000 students in historically underserved communities in North and Northeast Portland. As a result, at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, two new schools will open to serve this community: Harriet Tubman and Roseway Heights middle schools. 

    As part of the enrollment balancing process to determine which elementary schools will feed into the new middle schools, the district converted Rose City Park, currently used by ACCESS Academy, the district’s talented and gifted program, to an elementary school. This requires the 350-student ACCESS program to move to another district facility. The Board of Education, via resolution, directed staff to identify a facility or facilities that would keep the ACCESS program intact. Very few buildings owned by PPS can accommodate the size of ACCESS Academy. To address these specific needs, it was determined that the Holladay-Youngson facility, given real constraints, is the best available option for ACCESS Academy.

    The Pioneer Special School Program, which serves high-needs special education students whose Individualized Education Plans call for placement in Pioneer, has been located at Holladay since 2006 and at Youngson since 2003. This program, serving approximately 135 students in grades kindergarten through 12, will move to two smaller facilities: Applegate for K-5 students and one K-8 class; and Rice for grade 6-12 students.

    Representatives from the Pioneer staff and leadership have suggested that the district explore the feasibility and consideration of a third facility, the Columbia building, to house Pioneer’s middle school-aged students, and locate the high school program students at Rice.  The Columbia facility, which formerly operated as a Pioneer site, includes many of the desired amenities such as a gym, room for a library and de-escalation spaces, plus a kitchen. This would create a three-campus plan that would create much more available physical space to support students and keep the middle school program students intact on one dedicated site.

    Parent representatives have also called on the district to explore other properties outside the district’s currently available campus portfolio. District staff are exploring these suggestions as well.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    Q1: Is Pioneer being dismantled or shut down?

    A: Pioneer is not being closed or dismantled, but rather is being relocated to two facilities, or potentially three facilities. The program remains the same. Students who need intensive services in a separate facility will continue to have access to those services.

    Q2: Concerns have been expressed over the small size of Applegate and Rice compared with Holladay-Youngson. Are Applegate and Rice big enough to accommodate Pioneer students safely given the need for extra space for de-escalation?

    A: Classrooms at Rice and Applegate are standard classrooms sizes. They are about the same size as the classrooms at Holladay and may be a bit smaller than the classrooms at Youngson. The district is consulting with a special education therapeutic specialist to ensure that the new locations will have ample space for de-escalation and sensory activities.

    Q3: The fencing at Holladay-Youngson is designed to prevent students from climbing over. Will Applegate and Rice be similarly fenced?

    A: Applegate and Rice will both be fully fenced in a way that provides a safe enclosure for Pioneer students.

    Q4: Applegate has classrooms off a single hallway. There are concerns that this layout could lead to disruptions if a student is escalating or acting out.

    A: From a safety perspective, a single hallway provides increased line of sight.  Much like the Youngson campus, students are fully visible from most locations. The school will have separate spaces for de-escalation.

    Q5: Applegate’s location near an industrial area with busy streets (Lombard and Columbia Blvd.) and near train tracks raises safety concerns. How will this be addressed?

    A: Applegate is in a residential neighborhood several blocks from both Lombard and Columbia. Many of our schools, including the Holladay-Youngson campus, are located on or near busy streets The District will provide measures such as fencing and supervision to help ensure safety.

    Q6: Pioneer’s current location has soft, non-slip linoleum floors, wall-to-wall carpeting and shatter-resistant windows, all of which provide an additional level of safety when transporting or restraining escalated students. Will Applegate and Rice have similar safety elements?

    A: Plans for preparing the Applegate and Rice campuses will include having carpeted rooms for de-escalation spaces and a safety shield on all glass windows.  

    Q7: Will Pioneer students face longer bus rides to get to the new facilities? This is a concern because it can cause some students to escalate.

    A: Some students will have longer rides, some will have shorter rides. We won’t know until our transportation staff establishes and runs the new bus routes. We will work with transportation to try to minimize the length of bus rides for students.

    Q8: Dividing the Pioneer staff has the potential to make nonviolent crisis intervention challenging.  How will this safety concern be addressed?

    A: The new sites will have the same staffing ratios as the Holladay-Youngson campus. Staff are trained to use appropriate and safe intervention measures.

    Q9: How will parents be involved in the relocation?

    A: The Pioneer principal is forming a parent and community advisory committee. Parents who wish to be part of the committee should sign up through the principal’s office.

    Equity Questions and Responses:

    Q10: Holladay-Youngson has a full cafeteria in which students have the opportunity to build social skills in a cafeteria setting. Will they have that same opportunity at Applegate and Rice?

    A: Both Applegate and Rice have cafeteria space, although Applegate’s is smaller than the one at Holladay-Youngson. There will be approximately 52 students on the Applegate campus and the multipurpose room/cafeteria is big enough to accommodate that number. Additionally, there are several extra classrooms at Applegate; one of these spaces could also be used as an eating area. Rice’s multipurpose room has ample space to serve as a cafeteria.

    Q11: How will the district ensure that Pioneer students receive physical education classes and opportunities to exercise, develop teamwork, accountability and cooperation skills, or enjoy earned activity and fun time?

    A: Like many PPS school buildings, Applegate and Rice have multipurpose rooms. These spaces can be used for physical activities.  

    Q12: Applegate and Rice have no on-campus play structures. How will this be addressed?

    A: Applegate will have a full play structure on campus, plus will have access to the adjacent park.  Rice will have age appropriate outdoor space that will be created through input from the advisory committee for that site.

    Q13: The Rice building does not have a library. How will the district provide Pioneer students with quiet spaces to read, study and check out books?

    A: Rice will have robust classroom libraries with the opportunity to access books and materials via online check out from the larger district library services. This system operates much like our county library network. If a third site is added for Pioneer high school students, Rice will have extra space that could be used for a library.  

    Q14: The current Pioneer campus includes space to meet the sensory needs of life skills students, including a place for a therapeutic swing, light room, dark room, and walking spaces for those with seizure protocols. Will these spaces be created at the Applegate and Rice buildings?

    A: Ensuring sensory spaces are available is included in the plans for all future sites. How they will be equipped depends on individual student’s IEPs and recommendations from occupational therapists.

    Q15: Public transportation is a concern. The Holladay-Youngson campus is served by three Tri-Met routes (14, 9 and 71). Is there similar service to Applegate and Rice?

    A: Applegate is near Lombard, which has frequent bus service (Route 4) Rice is near Halsey, which has frequent bus service (Route 77)

    Q16: Facilities is already making building improvement plans for ACCESS when the program moves into Holladay-Youngson; why weren’t these improvements considered for Pioneer students?

    A: Each program has specific facility needs that need to be addressed. Improvements are also planned for Applegate and Rice to ensure they meet the needs of Pioneer students.

    Q17: Moving Pioneer and retrofitting proposed sites costs money. How much will it cost, and where will this money come from?

    A: The district is working with a contractor to assess the scope and cost of upgrades to the two facilities. We do not have a specific estimates at this point. Any costs above current budgeted amounts would be subject to approval by the Board. PPS is engaged in a continuous effort to upgrade its buildings as need and funding becomes available.

    Pioneer engagement to date

    Superintendent Guerrero met with Pioneer staff on Nov. 28.

    Message to all Pioneer families and staff was sent Nov. 28.

    Guerrero and other District staff attended and spoke at a meeting that evening hosted by special education parents that included Pioneer parents and staff.

    A message was sent to Pioneer families and staff on Dec. 5 about the option of using Rice school for Pioneer upper grade students.

    Guerrero and other District staff met with Pioneer staff on Dec. 12.

    A Pioneer community meeting was held Dec. 13 that included presentations by the superintendent, Senior Director of Student Services Mary Pearson and Special Education Director Robert Cantwell.

    A progress report was sent to Pioneer families and staff on Jan. 26.

    Mary Pearson met with Pioneer staff on Jan. 30.

    Guerrero and other staff met last month with a small group of Pioneer parents to discuss their concerns.

    Deputy Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Curtis visited the Pioneer program.

    PPS Board member Scott Bailey met with a Pioneer parent on Jan. 30 to discuss concerns.

    PPS Board members Bailey and Rita Moore attended a “meet the new board members” session on Feb. 10 and answered questions from Pioneer staff and families.

    PPS Board member Mike Rosen has visited Pioneer three times.

    Director Rosen and Board Chair Julia Brim-Edwards met with Pioneer parents; other Board members have also engaged various parents.

    Community meeting for all Pioneer families held March 1.

    Columbia building discussion

    Mary Pearson attended an all staff meeting at Pioneer on Jan. 30 to address staff concerns and building upgrades for Rice and Applegate. At this meeting, several staff members suggested a third site be explored to allow for the entire middle school program to stay intact and give the high school ample space for a full library, de-escalation spaces and confidential meeting space for individual counseling. The Columbia site was mentioned by a staff member as a possible third location. 

    On Feb. 2, Mary Pearson discussed this option with Superintendent and then met with Jerry Vincent and Sara King to discuss the possibility of the Columbia site, which has housed the Pioneer high school program previously. 

    On Feb. 5, Mary Pearson, Pioneer Principal Mike Laframboise and Assistant Principal Chris Burns toured the Columbia site with Facilities staff. The initial conclusions is that the Columbia site is in good shape for students. The building has a full gym, kitchen, room for library and plenty of space for de-escalation.  There are minimal upgrades/improvements that would need to be made to have this building move-in ready:

    • ADA upgrade for entrance (minimal improvements needed).
    • Some window upgrades, addition of safety glass.
    • Fencing would need to be installed
    • Preference to pursue a reduced speed zone, which would require city approval
    • Explore the possibility of an additional driveway for bus loading and unloading.

    At a Pioneer staff meeting on Feb. 13, Principal Laframboise and Assistant Principal Burns shared information from their tour of Columbia. Pioneer staff gave opinions that three sites for the program are better than two, as it allows for the space they believe is needed to provide a quality program. Staff emphasized that their support of a third site in no way indicates that they support this move.  

    Next steps

    From the community meeting, we hope to get a minimum of four parents and community members who would like to participate on a Pioneer advisory committee. 

    Principal Laframboise will write a summary of this meeting to submit to Mary Pearson by March 2.

    The District has contracted with Dr. Rick Robinson, a specialist in therapeutic programs and best practices, to advise on the Pioneer move. He will spend a full day at Pioneer on March 6 to begin making observations and recommendations.