Portland High School
The main entrance to Portland High School on Cumberland Avenue. Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said replacement of Portland and Deering high schools will remain a priority for the School Department after he leaves his post next July. (Portland Phoenix/Jim Neuger)
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The Portland School Board voted unanimously to endorse the proposed integration of the city’s two high schools last week.

The resolution from the Oct. 11 meeting requires Superintendent Xavier Botana to pursue state funding options to address the schools’ long-term capital needs. Over the next 20 years, the district anticipates it could need as much as $130 million to maintain Portland and Deering, a figure that Board Chair Emily Figdor said the district can’t meet. 

“We’re not even in the ballpark of being able to meet these needs — and this is just to maintain the buildings,” Figdor said.

The Portland school district proposed a plan early this year to combine two of its three biggest public schools, Portland and Deering, into one building, adding the technical school Portland Arts & Technology High School, a technical school, and Portland Adult Education. 

The schools face issues like discrepancies in academic and programmatic offerings, a disparity in scheduling structure between the two schools and a disproportionate spread of students with diversity factors that fluctuates between the schools year by year, which affects the district’s ability to staff and plan curriculum accordingly. 

The costs of maintaining Portland and Deering aren’t sustainable, officials say, but they haven’t yet secured funding for the plan.

The school board approved significant changes to its enrollment policy last month, hoping to balance students and resources between Portland and Deering high schools. The enrollment adjustments could result in some students not being able to attend their first choice high school.

PPS sought to be on the state funding list for the “Integrated Consolidated High School” project last spring, but was denied. The district still plans to move toward the project’s requirements.

One of the discrepancies between Portland and Deering, the scheduling, could be subject to change sooner than expected. Assistant Superintendent Melea Nalli said the district hopes to inform students and families about potential schedule changes prior to when eighth graders begin choosing their high schools in the winter months.

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