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NEWS DAY | Minneapolis enrollment surge plan: Version 2.0
Minneapolis Public Schools rolled out a big, shiny new plan on September 24, and seven weeks later it is patched, tweaked, and a little bruised, but still headed toward a December finish line. The plan provides for moving, combining, and opening schools to accommodate an expected 3398 additional students by 2017. It will affect more than 8,000 of the district's current 34,000 students.
Parent/community input meetings revealed lots of opposition and anger, focusing both on the content and process, as the enrollment plan followed a number of large initiatives over the past few years. SHIFT — the name of the penultimate Big Plan — may be a good characterization for the entire MPS process. MPS reported that they heard from "just over 1100 community members" during the comment period.
Sarah Lahm reported on a North Minneapolis meeting:
"Elizabeth Hall Elementary School parent Ariah Fine asked why the district decided to hold its first community engagement meeting, in the part of the city most likely to be directly impacted by the plan, just one week after announcing the proposed changes....
"Another parent grew emotional during the small group session as she tried to explain how hard she has worked to give her own two children a better education than the one she got. Saying she was “sour about what has happened” in the schools in her area of north Minneapolis in recent years, with programs closing or being shifted around, this parent said she “does not want her child to be an experiment” for the district."
Southeast Minneapolis parents revolted last week, when MPS announced on the Marcy Open School website that the school would be move to Sheridan's building. Parents were angry that they were not told of the move or of a meeting to discuss it, and they packed the room and vehemently voiced their concerns at a November 6 meeting. By Friday, November 8, MPS backed down and said it would not move Marcy.
Other changes were incorporated in a revised Five Year Plan presented to the board November 12. Among the highlights:
• Under the original plan, Sheridan was going to move and change to a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) program — under the new one, Sheridan will stay where it is in Northeast Minneapolis and will remain an arts magnet, with some Spanish dual immersion classrooms also moving in to the building.
• In North Minneapolis, Lucy Laney, Bethune and Hall will path to Franklin Middle School and then to North High School. Both the middle school and the high school will have a medical/science/tech theme.
• Pierre Bottineau will move to the Cityview building, and Cityview will also open as a K-2 school, with plans to grow to a PreK-5 school.
• Lincoln will be reopened, with Minneapolis College Prep and a Harvest Prep's Best Academy school co-located there. Both would be new schools, and possibly part of the SHIFT proposal for partnership schools — whatever that means.
• In South Minneapolis, the district dropped plans for an audition-only arts school at Wilder, perhaps responding to parent and school concerns that this could cripple the lively arts programs already in place. Instead, the revised plan proposes to make Wilder a STEAM middle school, and a pathway for Spanish dual immersion for Emerson and Windom elementary schools. Looks like there will also be a city-wide gifted and talented program there.
• In Southwest Minneapolis, Southwest High School is schedule for a building expansion, to add to its current enrollment of 1746 students.
• The Spanish dual immersion programs at Emerson and Windom will path to Wilder for middle school and then to Roosevelt.
• North Loop parents pushed for some kind of neighborhood school for their young children. Webster will reopen with PreK-2 and add a grade each year to PreK-5.
The Board is scheduled to vote on the plan in December. In the meantime, follow-up community input sessions are scheduled for:
• Area A = November 18 at MPRB Offices
• Area B = November 14 at Pratt Community School
• Area C = November 20 at Washburn High School
• Dual Immersion = Tuesday November 19 at Windom
Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.