Parents vow to fight to keep Chief Joseph Elementary open

Parents vow to fight to keep Chief Joseph Elementary open »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. – Some Portland parents vented their frustration Friday night after learning their school could close.

Portland Superintendent Carole Smith released her recommended plan to address enrollment concerns in the Jefferson Cluster.
Parents at Chief Joseph Elementary School in North Portland thought the school was safe. The school district didn't mention closing Chief Joseph as an option in January when two scenarios emerged as the most likely for adjusting enrollment.

One option would close Woodlawn School, and the other would have closed Vernon School. But Woodlawn and Vernon appear safe at the expense of Chief Joseph.

And for Kelly Bawden, a mother of a first-grader at Chief Joseph, the shock is turning to exasperation.

"It's a gut punch," she said.

Bawden said Chief Joseph parents were blindsided by Smith's recommendation to eventually close her first grade son's school and shift students over to Ockley Green School, especially after the district focused in on two proposals last month, neither of which mentioned closing Chief Joseph.

"The level of distrust at this point has gone off the scale," Bawden said.

"Parents are not going to back down," said Becca Russell, a parent of another first-grader at Chief Joseph. "We are going to fight for our school. Whatever it takes, we are going to fight to keep our school open because we love it that much."

Russell said she and other Chief Joseph parents will push the school district board to re-evaluate its options, rather than close schools.

"What would it become?" she said. "Would it become just this empty building in the middle of this neighborhood?"

"I know everybody thinks their elementary school is special, but we are a walkable, bikable, true neighborhood school," Bawden said.

The school board meets Monday to hear the superintendent's recommended plan, and Chief Joseph parents plan to show up en masse there as well as next weekend for a special public hearing at Jefferson High School.