PPS uses analytics firm to help in redrawing boundaries


Illustration by Jalen Javurek

This is the current boundary lines for the 2018-19 school year according to the PPS website.

Portland Public Schools has announced plans to begin its largest redistricting operation ever– a plan that could shuffle around the majority of its 46,000 students. In order to redraw boundaries in time for the 2020-21 school year, the district is outsourcing its duties for the first time to a private, data analytics consulting firm, Portland’s FLO Analytics.

“It’s going to be a very complicated and technical process,” says Harry Esteve, PPS’ Director of Strategic Communications and Outreach. “It always is, especially when you’re dealing with a student body this large. [So] we hired [FLO] to clear up some of the larger technical issues.”

Indeed, Esteve cited “technical expertise” and “fresh eyes” as key reasons why PPS chose to hire an outside firm this year.

The district has appointed committees to work on redistricting in the past; in 2015 they formed a District-wide Boundary Review Advisory Committee comprised of parents and local officials, while in 2017 the district created smaller, more regional advisory boards to deal with each district’s individual problems.

“None of those options were really equipped to tackle as big of a project as this is going to be,” says Esteve.

FLO’s first major project will be to address overcrowding at Kellogg Middle School. Following that, they will be tackling under-enrollment in some of PPS’ northern facilities, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary.

Some students, blindsided by redistricting in past years, are wary of what the new changes could mean for kids like their younger siblings.

“My brother goes to Wilson,” says Lincoln junior Emma Howard, “and it’s definitely made us see less of each other and made certain things more complicated.”

Yet the district is assuring its constituents that public input will remain as important as ever.

“Our students and families have certainly been helpful to us in the past,” claims Esteve, “and we anticipate they will continue to be in the future.”