Portland school board votes to close Harriet Tubman, Humboldt

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Public Schools board voted to shut down the Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women Monday night, leaving parents and students in tears and scrambling to figure out what to do next.

The only all-girls public school in the Northwest will close next year, and this late in the school year, students' transfer options are limited.

Families held signs during the school board meeting, pleading with board members to save the school. Many expressed frustration to the board and said they felt like one of the best schools was being closed down.

The last stand to save Tubman came down to one issue: enrollment.

When it opened in 2006, the school for girls interested in science and math was supposed to grow to 450 students. But after efforts to close the academy failed two years ago, enrollment stalled this year at 171. Some grades have just six students.

A majority of the board agreed that it cannot continue to subsidize the school, voting 5-2 to close the academy.

Afterward, heartbroken students and parents turned to each other for support.

"I want to keep this school open," said Holly Ho. "I'm a mom. I'm willing to devote my energy to make this happen, but we are not even given the chance now."

Ho blamed district staff for failing to recruit new students.

"I really think someone in the district should be fired because someone's poor management (made) our daughters the victims," she said.

Pete Morris said he's worried about what's next for his daughter who is in the sixth-grade.

"She's going to go from a school where she's valued and is learning to be a strong young woman, learning to love math and science, to a neighborhood school with something over 600 students that has a well-known gang and violence and drug problems," he said.

In another move to help fill the district's $27.5 million budget hole, the school board also voted to close Humboldt Elementary School, sending students to Boise-Eliot instead.

The school board also voted to sell the former Washington High School on Southeast Stark and 14th. It's been sitting empty for several years.

The board is selling the property to a local developer for $2 million. The developer plans to turn the building into apartments.

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