Minneapolis schools present new overhaul planby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minneapolis school district has finished updating a wide-ranging overhaul plan that will close several schools and change the way students are transported.
The district first proposed the plan in April and is presenting a final version to school board members Tuesday night. A final vote is expected in about three weeks.
The effort, called "Changing School Options," addresses a number of aspects of how the district is run -- from transportation to curriculum to which programs and school buildings remain in use. The aim is to save millions of dollars but also make instruction more equitable throughout the district.
The original plan called for closing schools, returning some magnet schools to regular community schools, and changing busing options for students. It was tabled a week after it was proposed because Superintendent Bill Green said the votes weren't there to assure passage by the board. The new plan still proposes many of the same changes but has been altered in ways some board members found crucial to assuring their vote.
For board chair Tom Madden, the new plan includes more details on issues like attendance boundaries. "Parents can now look at it and see exactly how they fit into the plan, and they couldn't do that before," he said.
At the core of the changes is the splitting of the city into three zones: North and Northeast Minneapolis in one; southwest in another; and south and southeast in the third. Each zone will have at least one community school and three magnet schools. The change points to the millions of dollars the district says it can save by not having buses crisscrossing the city all the time.
Students would still be able to attend any school in the city, but they'd have to provide their own transportation if they choose one outside their home zone. Citywide busing will continue, though, for some English Language Learners and special education students.
The plan also ends "open areas" -- parts of the city that currently don't have an assigned community school. Declining enrollment and overcapacity have had district officials long talking about the need to close some schools, though all of the city's high schools are still slated to remain open.
With the new plan:
- Pratt and Longfellow schools are still slated to close, but Northrop Middle School will be spared.
- Folwell Middle School will still close, but will stay empty. The original plan had another program moving into that site.
- Anwatin Middle School and Park View Montessori were not on the original closure list, but are now.
- Emerson Spanish Immersion Elementary School will leave its current location and move into the site where both Anwatin and Bryn Mawr Schools are currently located. Windom Spanish Immersion will house K-5; Emerson (at its new location) will house K-8.
- The number of magnet schools will fall from 16 to 12. (Cityview Performing Arts; Kenwood Performing Arts; Northrop Urban Environmental; and Pilsbury M/S/T will all revert to regular community schools)
- The Lehmann Center, and another site at 1250 W. Broadway -- which both house alternative high schools and other community education programs -- are still slated to close, per the original plan. The programs will continue, with a site to be determined.
- The Brown Institute Building will still close, with the Anishinabe Academy moving to nearby Sullivan School. The difference is that Anishinabe has already made the move, whereas all other changes will happen in 2010. District officials say the Brown Building property, at Lake & Hiawatha, is ideal for sale in the future.
"I feel it's a stronger proposal," said Superintendent Bill Green, in an interview. "It isn't a vastly different plan, but I do think we have been able to build on the previous plan to make it stronger."
The entire plan is expected to save as much as $8.2 million a year, which will help address -- but won't solve -- the current budget deficit. The district also expects an estimated 5,800 students will change schools because of the plan.
The district will hold public meetings this month to discuss the plan -- a final vote from the school board is expected on September 22. All the changes will take effect in the fall of 2010.
The public meetings will be held:
* September 9 - 6:30 p.m. Sheridan Global Arts & Communications School 1201 University Ave. NE Information about schools in North and Northeast Minneapolis
* September 14 - 6:30 p.m. Washburn High School 201 West 49th St. Information about schools in Southwest Minneapolis
* September 15: Public hearing on school closings - 6:00 p.m., Washburn High School
- All Things Considered, 09/01/2009, 5:14 p.m.