PORTLAND — School officials say elementary school redistricting is unnecessary as the city prepares to open the Ocean Avenue Elementary School in a few months.

Pressure to redistrict has dissipated because Portland’s eight neighborhood elementary schools are at or above capacity from recent enrollment growth, Superintendent Jim Morse said Monday.

School officials had anticipated a need to redistrict when the new school opened because, in recent years, some schools had too many students and others had too few. In the past two years, overall elementary enrollment has increased by about 180 students.

“The influx of youngsters into our elementary schools really has eliminated the need for dramatic redistricting,” Morse said. “Portland has a neighborhood school system and there’s strong respect for that.”

Morse said some parents and others have expressed concern that the district might change school neighborhood boundaries to promote socioeconomic balance among elementary schools. He said he doesn’t support such “social engineering” and believes the district has a responsibility to address students’ needs in their neighborhood schools.

The Ocean Avenue School will replace the 103-year-old Clifford Elementary School on Falmouth Street. The district plans to close Clifford and transfer its 314 students to the new school in January.


The School Committee will vote in the coming weeks on a proposal to close the Clifford School and transfer control of it to the city on Jan. 3.

The $14.2 million Ocean Avenue School is on the site of the former Baxter Elementary School, which served students in the area ranging from Back Cove to Woodfords Corner to Canco Road to Payson Park.

To round out the new school’s 440-student capacity, children who live in neighborhoods served previously by the Baxter School will start attending the Ocean Avenue School in September. Many of those students now attend the Longfellow, Presumpscot and Riverton elementary schools, where enrollments are 20 percent to 25 percent over capacity, Morse said.

Portland’s elementary schools have 3,229 students this year, 3.5 percent more than the 3,120 students enrolled in 2008 and 5.8 percent more than the 3,051 students in 2004, said David Galin, chief academic officer.

Students who attend the Longfellow, Presumpscot and Riverton schools won’t be required to transfer to the Ocean Avenue School if they have only one or two years left at the elementary level, Morse said.

Students who now attend an elementary school outside their neighborhood district likely won’t be affected by the new school’s opening, Morse said.


About 80 percent of Portland’s elementary students attend the schools in their neighborhoods, he said.

About 20 percent attend schools in other neighborhoods, often because those schools have desired or necessary educational programs or because they’re closer to parents’ workplaces or the children’s after-school care providers.

The district plans a series of meetings to answer parents’ questions about how their children will be affected by the new school’s opening. The meeting at the Clifford School was held last week. Meetings at the Longfellow, Presumpscot and Riverton schools will be held in November.

The Ocean Avenue School is scheduled to open eight months early and $5.4 million under budget because of favorable weather, good planning, increased competition among contractors and lower costs for materials.

The new school has many features that the Clifford School lacks, including a cafeteria, a gym, and energy-efficient building materials and utilities.

Its interior decor features a subtle nature theme, with colors and design details reflecting the ocean, mountains, forest and agriculture.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]


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