Final public hearing tonight on Mpls. school reorganizationby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Tuesday night is the last chance for the public to weigh in on a wide-ranging plan to overhaul the Minneapolis School District.
The "Changing School Options" plan would alter class curricula and trim expenses in the state's third largest district.
The plan calls for closing five schools and curtailing busing, and would save more than $8 million a year.
School board chairman Tom Madden said he and his fellow board members are open to changes to the plan, to a point.
"What I'm personally listening for is something perhaps we hadn't thought of, or something perhaps that's a little different insight than any of the work that the district's done or the board's been talking about," Madden said. "I think people are open to hearing new things. If its kind of the same, I don't want to minimize it, because this is a stressful situation for everybody."
"But if its kind of the the please don't close our school, close this one instead, that's not helpful," he said.
The school board has already held three town hall-style meetings about the changing option plans. Parents concerned about school closures rallied before last night's meeting.
Joanna Carlson has one child at Armatage School, which is currently part-community school and part-magnet school. Under the plan, Armatage would become all magnet.
"The district's attitude seems to be: 'If we build it they will come,' and maybe they will," she said. "But maybe they won't and I don't want to end up with a vacant school three blocks from my house in a couple years' time."
Despite the displeasure from some parents, Madden says he has been encouraged by the reaction.
"I thought last night would be extremely difficult, and it wasn't. I thought some of the questions were good questions, I thought the overall mood was one of understanding, but you know, frustration that we have to go through this, but yet understanding," Madden said. "I have to tell you, all in all, I have been pleasantly surprised."
Madden says parents have raised some important points about aspects of the plan, such as allowing students to stay in some schools, even when attendance boundaries change. He says the district is planning to make extra efforts to address those and other problems.
Tuesday night's meeting is at Washburn High School at 6 p.m. The Minneapolis School Board is expected to debate and vote on the entire plan next Tuesday.