Minnesota School of Science families scramble to find schools


A week before the school year kicked off at many metro locations, leaders of the recently evicted Minnesota School of Science officially announced that they would not reopen in a new location. The phone call to families last week was another pothole for the parents of more than 300 North Minneapolis students, some of whom had hoped to continue at the charter this fall.

“It really was a scramble. That’s the worst thing – is to tell a parent a week before school started that a school is not going to open,” said Debbie Howell, whose son started fourth grade this week at Carter G. Woodson charter school in Northeast Minneapolis. Howell lives down the street from the vacated Cityview building where MSS was housed.

MSS administrators spent the summer fighting Minneapolis Public Schools’ decision to evict the program from its home in North Minneapolis, while MPS told parents, teachers and the public that it would reopen Cityview as a district school. 

The Minnesota Department of Education withheld the charter’s state lease aid last year because of a conflict between the district’s roles as both MSS’s authorizer and its landlord. Citing numerous reported policy violations at MSS, the district declined to turn the charter over to a new authorizer, which might have cleared up the conflict and allowed the school to pay rent.

MSS fought the decision in court this July and lost. In a letter to parents sent August 12, school leaders offered resources for finding an alternative school option. It wasn’t until August 22, though, that they officially announced that the school would not reopen in a new location.

MSS board member Gene Scapanski said that Concept Schools, the charter’s management company, offered former MSS teachers the opportunity to relocate to one of their other schools, outside the state. Scapanski said three accepted.

The district announced at the end of July that a plan to open a new district program in the Cityview building had failed. Most of the building’s classrooms now sit empty. The district said it will have a school at Cityview in 2014-15. According to district spokespersons, “While there were programs slated to move into the building this fall, including a new MPS school, the late decision on the litigation made it very difficult.”

Shalisha Ransom made the call early on to find a new school for her son, who is entering seventh grade. Although the family lives two blocks from Cityview, Ransom decided to look outside of Minneapolis. Her son will attend Robbinsdale middle school.

Abdikarim Farah started school-searching when he learned that the charter’s legal strategy had failed. Although he lives in Northeast Minneapolis, his two children will attend the district’s Lyndale school in Southwest Minneapolis. Farah said the family’s late enrollment meant other options would have placed the siblings at separate schools. He said a member of the family will have to drive the kids across town every day.

Many parents held onto hope that the charter would open. “I was devastated. I was kind of hurt,” said Shayne Vincent, whose daughter started second grade at Loveworks Academy in Golden Valley on Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, it’s only politics. They talk about our kids’ education, but it’s not about that,” Vincent said, referring to the Minneapolis district and the state education department. If MSS reopens next year, Vincent says her daughter will follow.

Howell had already bought a uniform to match MSS’s dress code. Last week, she went out and purchased a different one. “It was a hassle and a waste of time and a lot of waste of money,” she said.

Related: Minnesota School of Science loses in court: Out of Cityview (Alleen Brown, 2013)

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