Portland Public Schools (Oregon)

Portland Public Schools (PPS) is a public school district located in Portland, Oregon, United States. It is the largest school district in the state of Oregon. It is a PK–12 district with an enrollment of more than 49,000 students. It comprises more than 100 locations, including 79 schools and other sites that are maintained within the district.

Portland Public Schools
Portland Public Schools (Oregon) logo.png
Portland, Oregon
United States
District information
Established1851; 170 years ago (1851)
Budget$655 million (2018–19)[1]
Students and staff
Students49,557 (Oct. 2017)[2]
Other information


19th centuryEdit

In the 1850s, when the first public schools were formed in Portland, free education was still a new concept. On December 6, 1851, the following advertisement appeared in The Oregonian:

In pursuance of a vote of the Portland school district at their annual meeting, the directors have established a free school. The first term will commence on Monday, the 15th inst., at the schoolhouse in this city, near the City Hotel. (John W. [sic] Outhouse, teacher.) The directors would recommend the following books to be used in the school, viz.: Sandler's Series of Readers and Spellers, Goodrich's Geography, Thompson's Arithmetics and Bullion's Grammar.[3]

John Outhouse, the schoolteacher, was paid 100 dollars a month. The school was held in a school house at the corner of First and Oak Streets, in what is now Northwest Portland, and had just 20 students at first.[4]:16

The early public schools were met with some criticism. An editorial in The Oregonian on July 3, 1852 stated that the Common School Council was "self-called, self-elected, that voted a thousand dollars in addition to be paid by our citizens for pedagoguing some dozen or two of children."[4]:16

Metropolitan Learning Center, a Kx12 alternative program run by PPS

Abigail Clarke was hired at the beginning of the third term in 1852, due to increased attendance and a $1600 tax to pay for the schools. She was paid 75 dollars a month, and taught at a new school building, on First and Taylor Streets. By the third term, 126 students were enrolled in all, and an average of 90 showed up each day. Clarke was known to "thrash" boys who made a sport of rapping on the windows of the school, which faced out to the street. She continued to teach until the summer of 1853, when she moved to Oregon City.[4]:18

In December 1854, Thomas Frazer wrote a notice in The Oregonian to try to create a school board for Portland. Many responded, and the first school board consisted of Thomas Frazer himself, William S. Ladd, and Shubrick Norris as directors. The first superintendent of Multnomah County was L. Limerick, who was appointed in January 1855.[4]:21

On December 18, 1854, the school board organized two school districts, named School District Number 1 and School District Number 2, divided by Morrison Street. On March 31, 1856, they were merged into a single School District Number 1.[4]:22[5]

School District Number 1 opened a school in fall 1855, presumably replacing the school started by Outhouse and Clarke. This school was presided over by Sylvester Pennoyer and closed in six months, as the funds were exhausted.[5][6] In 1858, a new schoolhouse was built, financed by canceling school for a year.[5][6] The school was located at Sixth and Morrison and named the Central School.[5] The Central School location was later occupied by the Portland Hotel and is now Pioneer Courthouse Square.[5][6] A high school, Portland High School, was opened in 1869, and a night school program was created at the high school in 1889.[5]

In the 1860s, the school budget was very low, about $10 per student per year.[6] William S. Ladd, known for being thrifty, raised objections to the school paying for supplies such as ink, requiring students to instead make their own by boiling oak bark and carrying it in animal horns.[6]

In 1867, shoemaker William Brown, one of approximately 200 black people then living in Portland, sued the school district for refusing to educate the 16 black children in the city.[6] The Colored School opened in fall 1867, discontinuing in 1872 when a local referendum supported integration.[6] By December 1873, 30 students (out of 1048) in the district were black.[6]

By the end of the 1870s, there were four elementary schools: Central School (1858–?), Harrison School (1866–?), Colored School (Portland, Oregon) (1867–1872), and North School (1868–?).[5]

Portland schools were questioned by Harvey W. Scott and The Oregonian in 1880, especially regarding the efficacy and practicality of public high schools. The yearly cost to educate a student in 1879 in Portland was $24.06.[5]

A compulsory education program was enacted in Oregon on February 25, 1889. By 1891, the district contained 95 teachers, seven elementary schools, one high school, and one night school. The schools were described as crowded by The Oregonian at that time. Other school districts in East Portland and Albina were combined in 1891 (with 83% of residents voting in favor of consolidation). This added nine elementary schools, 74 teachers, and 2698 students to the system.[5]

20th centuryEdit

The St. Johns (school) District was annexed on July 7, 1915, and the James John High School was added[clarification needed] at this time. On the suggestion of superintendent Lewis H. Alderman, high school dances were allowed by the school board beginning in 1915, with the stipulation that "the parents of a majority of the students attend."[5] Portable classrooms were used, especially in 1919, with 60 portables added. By this time, there were evening schools taught at Benson High School, Girls' Polytechnic (later merged with Benson), Commerce, Jefferson High School, Ladd, and Lincoln High School. A new administration building opened at 7th and Clackamas in the Lloyd District.[5]

On June 21, 1924, a $5 million bond was passed to build and remodel schools over the next five years, part of a planned three-part construction program expected to last 15 years and cost $15 million. Four new schools were planned during the first five years.[5] By 1927, there were 43,419 elementary students served.[5]

In 1930, the Great Depression caused a decrease in the number of elementary students enrolled, but an increase in both men and women in the high schools. The 1931 annual report stated: "At no previous time has the question of clothing, books, and carfare been so serious. Realizing that idleness is perhaps the greatest contributing factor toward delinquency, we hope to double our efforts this fall in the attempt to keep every child in school who should be there."[5] Teacher salaries, school year length, and other cost-cutting measures were made in 1932–1933.[5]

A new superintendent, Ralph E. Dugdale, began on August 26, 1937. He strongly believed "the schools of Portland were training people for jobs that did not exist," and began making aggressive curriculum and organizational changes. Twelve committees (with 169 faculty) over elementary education were created, and monthly report cards were canceled (in 1950, this was described as a "nationwide trend of discarding the antiquated method of sending monthly reports on student grades to parents."). Instead, occasional and irregular reports on academics and citizenship were sent home. Examinations on general knowledge and knowledge of educational development were instituted for new instructors. High school students were required to pass a minimum number of credits per semester, and then were evaluated to see if an alternative school would work better.[5]

The district trained a large number of defense workers in the national defense program, in preparation for World War II. About 10,000 men were trained in 1941 in airplane construction, shipbuilding, and other fields. During September 1942, 4400 additional elementary students enrolled. Ten teachers were added. There was an increased number of freshmen and sophomores in the high schools, but an overall loss of 832 students due to war industries and enlistment. By 1942, there were 63,238 school-age students, with 54,655 registered, and 1,613 instructors in 76 buildings.[5]

In 1945, Dr. Willard B. Spalding, superintendent since 1943, issued a 120-page report titled "Modernizing the School Plant", calling for a $25 million building program and projecting major changes in store. Fighting with Governor Earl Snell for a special legislative session, high school students struck for a day. In August 1946, 50 kindergartens were closed due to lack of funds and instructors. Other large cost-cutting measures were taken, including discussion of closing high school sports programs. Spalding and his Assistant Superintendent went on recruiting trips in the south and east states. Spalding resigned on June 30, 1947 to become the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois.[5]

Dr. Paul A. Rehmus was the next superintendent, notable for having the highest annual salary of any superintendent in the history of Portland Public Schools to this time- $13,000. Rehmus rejected progressive education, stating "The term 'progressive education' as a definite school of teaching method does not exist. The demarcation between what is formal and what is progressive education is almost impossible to define." In 1947, a $25 million levy was approved by voters, as well as $1.7 million to balance the operational budget.[5]

On June 30, 1949, there were 73,972 school-age students in the district boundaries, with 49,825 registered for school. The district had 1,828 teachers and 76 buildings.[5]

In October 1949 a "secret society problem" developed where three high school fraternities were involved in the "manhandling of a girl student." 50 boys had taken part in the incident, part of an initiation. An emergency school board meeting led to the banning of secret societies in the district. Parents and adult members of these secret societies filed a lawsuit in 1950.[5]

Three high schools were voted to close in 1981: Jackson High School in southwest Portland, Adams High School in northeast Portland, and Washington-Monroe High School in the inner eastside. The Adams and Jackson closures were done after a 3:30am vote of school board members, and a board member had to be followed home by a police escort. The closures were done due to low enrollment and to balance the budget, but the community and a board member threatened lawsuits.[7]

Enrollment in PPS continued to decline until 2010 and now slow growth is projected. Faced with some very small schools (200–350 students) the district has undertaken what is intended to be a continual process of Enrollment Balancing to deal with anemic programs in some schools and overcrowded buildings in others.

21st centuryEdit

Water fountain at Jefferson High School with sign saying it is closed for lead testing

Since 2000, there have been concerns about lead and radon in Portland Public School buildings.[8][9] In 2016, an overly large amount of lead was found in two schools. All PPS schools were ordered to use bottled water for the rest of the year instead of drinking from water fountains, and to use bottled water for food preparation and dish washing as well. Controversy surrounding poorly and infrequently tested water for lead has led to Superintendent Carole Smith stepping down in July 2016, a year before her ten-year term ended.[10] In August 2017, Guadalupe Guerrero became the new Superintendent.

Voters approved a $482 million bond measure in November 2012 to upgrade several schools, including Grant High School, Franklin High School, and Roosevelt High School.[11] In May 2017, an additional $790 million bond measure was passed to reopen Kellogg Middle School and modernize three other schools: Madison High School, Benson Polytechnic High School, and Lincoln High School.[12]

In 2020 the district ended the regular use of school resource officers and Guerrero announced plans to re-examine how the school district is partnered with the Portland Police Bureau.[13]


Enrollment data for Portland Public Schools from 1999 to 2019 [14]

In the 2009–2010 school year, PPS enrolled 81.6% of the city's available school-age children.[15] Nonetheless, total school enrollment was declining, accompanying a change in Portland's demographics. As a result, the Portland Public Schools are facing increasing budget pressure.

In the 2009 school year, the district had 1706 students classified as homeless by the Department of Education, or 3.8% of students in the district.[16]

List of schoolsEdit

Elementary schools (K–5)Edit

  • Abernethy
  • Ainsworth
  • Alameda
  • Atkinson
  • Ball
  • Boise-Eliot/Humboldt
  • Bridlemile
  • Buckman Arts
  • Capitol Hill
  • Chapman
  • Chief Joseph (K–4)
  • Duniway
  • Forest Park
  • Glencoe
  • Grout
  • Hayhurst
  • Irvington
  • James John
  • Kelly
  • Lee
  • Lewis
  • Llewellyn
  • Maplewood
  • Markham
  • Martin Luther King Jr. School[a] – certified PYP (Primary Years Program) International Baccalaureate Program
  • Richmond
  • Rieke
  • Rigler
  • Rosa Parks
  • Rose City Park
  • Sabin – certified PYP (Primary Years Program) International Baccalaureate Program
  • Scott
  • Sitton
  • Stephenson
  • Vestal
  • Whitman
  • Woodlawn
  • Woodmere
  • Woodstock

Mixed gradeEdit

Grade ranges of schools listed below are K–8 unless noted.
  • ACCESS Academy, 1-8
  • Arleta School
  • Astor
  • Beach (contains Spanish immersion)
  • Beverly Cleary School
  • Bridger
  • Cesar Chavez (formerly Clarendon-Portsmouth)
  • Creative Science
  • Creston
  • Harrison Park
  • Joseph L. Meek Professional Technical – operates an ungraded alternative high school for 16- to 21-year-olds previously unsuccessful in traditional high school programs
  • Laurelhurst
  • Lent
  • Marysville
  • Metropolitan Learning Center, K–12
  • Odyssey Program at East Sylvan[17]
  • Peninsula
  • Sellwood
  • Skyline
  • Sunnyside Environmental School
  • Trillium Charter School, K–12 (no longer in operation)
  • Vernon – certified PYP (Primary Years Program) as well as MYP (Middle Years Program)
  • Winterhaven – a rigorous, academic-focus program emphasizing STEM (Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology). Established on November 9, 1995 by a proposal (called the Winterhaven Plan) by the Portland Public Schools Board of Education.
  • Woodlawn[a]

Middle schools (6–8)Edit

  • Beaumont
  • da Vinci Arts Middle School
  • George
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Hosford
  • Jackson
  • Lane
  • Mt. Tabor
  • Ockley Green
  • Robert Gray
  • Roseway Heights
  • Sellwood
  • West Sylvan

High schools (9–12)Edit

Closed high schoolsEdit



School BoardEdit

As of 2020, the school board consists of:[18]

  • Andrew Scott (Zone #1)
  • Michelle DePass (Zone #2)
  • Amy Carlsen Kohnstamm (Zone #3)
  • Rita Moore (Zone #4)
  • Scott Bailey (Zone #5), Vice-Chair
  • Julia Brim-Edwards (Zone #6)
  • Eilidh Lowerey (Zone #7), Chair

Student RepresentativesEdit

In addition to seven board members, every year a Student Representative is chosen to serve on the board for an entire school year. Although his or her vote does not technically count, the student member is allowed to vote on issues and sit on the committees along with the board members. Student representatives are treated as active board members and are addressed by the title "Student Director". They may recommend certain policies for the board to pass.[19] The current Student Representative is:

Immersion programsEdit

PPS has several language immersion programs. The largest is the Spanish immersion program, which is offered at ten of the elementary schools, as well as at the middle and high schools that these schools feed into. Russian is offered at Kelly Elementary, which feeds into Lane Middle, and then to Franklin High School. There are also Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese immersion programs.[20]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b School includes a Pre-K program.


  1. ^ "Annual Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018/19: School District No. 1J, Multnomah County, Oregon" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. p. 4. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Annual Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018/19: School District No. 1J, Multnomah County, Oregon" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. p. 5. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  3. ^ Eliot, Thomas (1876). History of Public Schools of Multnomah County, Oregon (PDF). Centennial Bureau. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Powers, Alfred; Corning, Howard McKinley (1937). History of Education in Portland. WPA Adult Education Project.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Polich, Edward L. (1950). A history of Portland's secondary school system with emphasis on the superintendents and the curriculum (PDF) (M.A.). University of Portland. OCLC 232551057.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915–1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
  7. ^ Melton, Kimberly (February 18, 2010). "School closures involve more than enrollment". The Oregonian. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
  8. ^ KATU staff (June 1, 2016). "Tests show elevated levels of radon in Portland Public Schools".
  9. ^ Ryan, Jim (June 1, 2016). "PPS, under fire for lead in water, reports high levels of radon". Oregon Live. The Oregonian. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Hammond, Betsy (July 18, 2016). "Carole Smith stepping down immediately as Portland superintendent in wake of lead controversy". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  11. ^ Dungca, Nicole (November 6, 2012). "Portland Public Schools bond: Voters pass record-breaking bond". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  12. ^ Barnes, Bethany (May 18, 2017). "Voters approve $790 million Portland Public Schools bond". The Oregonian. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  13. ^ "Portland Public Schools will discontinue regular presence of school resource officers". KATU. 2020-06-04. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  14. ^ "Annual Budget for the Fiscal Year 2018/19: School District No. 1J, Multnomah County, Oregon" (PDF). Pps.net.
  15. ^ "Portland Public Schools Enrollment Forecasts 2017-18 to 2031-32" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. November 2017. p. 21.
  16. ^ "Count of homeless students in Oregon school districts, 2008–2009" (PDF). The Oregonian. p. 6. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  17. ^ Monahan, Rachel (April 12, 2016). "Portland Public Schools Makes Changes to Hayhurst Elementary, Raising Fears of Cuts". Willamette Week. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Board of Education". Portland Public Schools. Archived from the original on October 18, 2017.
  19. ^ "Student Representative Duties" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. September 9, 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 11, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  20. ^ "Dual Language Immersion Programs". Portland Public Schools.

External linksEdit