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Portland administrators look at limiting the district's high school choice program

Tom Porter
Maine Public file
Portland High School

Portland school administrators are proposing to limit the district's high school choice program for students to help compensate for enrollment fluctuations.

Under the current system, incoming freshmen can enter a lottery to attend Casco Bay High School, which has an enrollment cap of 100 students. They can also choose to attend either Portland or Deering High Schools.

But Superintendent Xavier Botana told the local school board on Tuesday that in recent years, more students have been enrolling at Portland High School, making it difficult to provide quality programming at both locations.

Another challenge, he said, is that more special education students, English language learners, children experiencing homelessness and those who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch are enrolled at Deering.

"To the extent we believe our high schools should be somewhat representative of our community, we are strained from the ability to do that, without having a way to manage for that," Botana said.

To compensate, the district would limit the difference in incoming freshmen enrollment between Portland and Deering to around 30 students, and also take into account diversity factors at each school.

Botana said the district will try to limit disruption, and only reassign up to 10% of incoming freshmen to their second or third-choice school.

"That's roughly 40 students, max, that would not get their first choice," he said.

The new system would go into place for the Class of 2027. The school board plans to hold a first reading of the proposal on Sept. 6.