Portland Public Schools, how do they work?
January 22, 2021 4:07 PM   Subscribe

My family and I are moving to Portland, Oregon, from out of state and we're wondering how and when we enroll in public schools. Added difficulty, we'd like to enroll in the Spanish immersion program.

Our current school system is already enrolling for the Fall. The closest I've come to a date for PPS is "in the Spring" from an email I got from their enrollment department. Needless to say the email exchanges I've had with the enrollment department haven't answered all my questions. Due to COVID, the enrollment department is mostly just replying to emails (or voicemails that they reply to by email).

Portland schools are neighborhood-based, which makes it difficult because we don't have a stable address yet. We can use a friend's address or possibly wherever we'll be renting in the short-term while we house hunt, but I don't know if that's kosher nor whether that will lead to difficulties in having to transfer to another school when we move to our permanent home.

Our daughters are in 3rd grade and pre-Kindergarten right now at a Spanish two-way immersion school. How would we apply to the Spanish immersion program there? I see that the transfer cycle and lottery starts in February. Do we put our names into the lottery before enrolling in a neighborhood school?

If we are not enrolled in a PPS school by the time the lottery or transfer cycle comes to a close, are we unable to apply to the Spanish program until the following year? So, this means we'll have to move, enroll in our neighborhood school, then transfer to the Spanish immersion school next year. Is that right?
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal to Education (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From this page:
Portland Public Schools currently has Spanish dual language immersion programs at 10 elementary schools across the district. Spanish immersion continues at 5 middle schools and 4 high schools.

followed by a list of the schools in question.

From this page:
Dual Language Immersion Entry Process FAQ

Entry at Kindergarten:
Students entering Kindergarten must apply through the School Choice Lottery at www.pps.net/schoolchoice, attend an informational meeting at any dual language immersion school or central office and sign a Statement of Understanding. If slots are still open after the lottery closes, DLI programs may continue to receive kindergarten applications. The lottery typically takes place in February/March of each year with results in late April. Please see the Enrollment and Transfer Center website for more informaion: www.pps.net/schoolchoice.

The informational meetings take place at schools between February and May and can be found on the Connect to Kindergarten page. Attending any of these meetings fulfills the meeting requirement.

Late Entry (Grades 1-12):
At grade levels beyond kindergarten, families must submit a petition transfer request. In order for petitions to be approved, space must be available at the specific grade level and school. If space is identified, partner language learners must pass a language proficiency assessment demonstrating that they are on grade level in reading, writing, speaking and listening in the partner language. Assessments for Late Entry are conducted in June, as well as right before school starts.

You can apply and find out more about the application process on the School Lottery website.

posted by blob at 5:02 PM on January 22, 2021

Best answer: Here's my anecdata as a Portlander with a kiddo in 4th grade in one of the immersion programs (not Spanish).

Since your kiddos are already in a Spanish immersion program, you are actually in a good spot. You do not have to enroll in your neighborhood school by any particular time. They must take you at your designated neighborhood school even if you show up on the first day and haven't enrolled. The lottery system is different. It is "easier" to lottery in to later grades but of course you have to have the language which you do. Slots are often more available in the upper grades because younger kids might drop or move away and unless you have the language, you can't get in later. Spanish is a little more accessible so this may not be 100% true in terms of open slots but you should call the school directly and ask about placing your older child there in the Fall.

With the immersion programs/lottery programs, preference is given to younger siblings. So, if your older child gets in, then likely that your younger will as well. The immersion programs are very popular so you don't want to miss any of these cutoffs. But if you can proactively place your older child in an immersion school successfully and inquire about placing your younger child behind them. But it looks like there is a transfer petition process so you should consider that immediately for your older child. When you lottery for your kindergartner there should be a box for "older sibling attends" and there may be one for language familiarity also. For instance, dual language homes also get some preference if that's your situation.

Some immersion programs are also neighborhood schools but I will say that getting in to the neighborhood school thinking you can transfer to the language side later is not really the best tactic. It may depend on the language or the school but I've known parents think that they could switch later but they couldn't because they didn't have the language necessary to jump in at the later grades.

Also, PPS makes a really big deal about in-person attendance at their kindergarten info session but I'm guessing that this year will be different and hopefully to your advantage. They imply that not attending will put you at the bottom of their list but who knows if this is true. Obviously, they must have many people inquiring from out of state so...there must be away.
posted by amanda at 5:45 PM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've seen those pages, blob, but it was unclear whether you enroll in the school in general and then the lottery. We won't have an address in February and I thought we needed to have an address and corresponding neighborhood school.
I think amanda's comment cleared that up some.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 7:45 PM on January 22, 2021

The lottery is a different beast so I'd go there first. And hopefully you'll get confirmation that your kids can enroll in a spanish immersion program and then you can house hunt around that. Your considerations then are where the program goes in PPS up through the grades. The language program my kid is in goes to a specific middle school and then high school (these are under flux right now so the original high school my kid was going to attend is likely not going to be the one once she is that age). So, when we consider other homes, neighborhoods, I look in those areas. If she leaves the immersion program, then we revert to the neighborhood school.
posted by amanda at 7:54 AM on January 23, 2021

Best answer: FWIW, we were aiming for a couple different schools in the lottery the last two years, and it was...like playing a real lottery. They weren't the immersion programs, so YMMV, but our experience both years was:

-Attend informational meeting, ask lots of questions and get lots of face time with decision makers (which is obnoxious because they encourage you to do this and for us it was very challenging and taxing, but in the end, it is a lottery)
-Place your kid in the lottery.
-Several months later you receive a notice saying there are only x-spots in each classroom (this ranged from 0-2 spots in each class).
-Weeks after that you receive your boilerplate rejection letter a few months after that. The magnet programs are very popular, and very difficult to get into.

It is apparently easier to get into some of these programs as kids are older, but thats counter to the goals of being in an immersion program.

If you can afford it, purchasing a home in the boundaries of the school you want your kid to attend is the easiest way to pull this off. But the market in Portland is shallower than has ever been historically reported. There are some neighborhoods with just, none houses for sale in them. We don't even live in a super desirable little zone, and we've been approached with eye-watering cash offers for our house.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:20 AM on January 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I know this is marked as answered but the Beaverton school district also has Spanish immersion and it's both neighborhood and lottery based. If you want your kids to continue with Spanish it might be worth considering the suburbs
posted by fiercekitten at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I have marked best answers, but more anecdotes and responses are always welcome.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 8:47 PM on January 24, 2021

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