Webster school may re-open as MPS five-year enrollment plan advances

Parents of students at Sheridan and Marcy Open School can breathe easier, neighbors near Webster school may see youngsters there again soon, and Edison High School may eventually pick up some new students from its neighborhood and downtown. Minneapolis Public Schools administrators decided to follow one of their core values, to cause the “least disruption,” in deciding the latest version of the five-year enrollment plan to advance.

Through many community meetings and small group meetings district officials heard from parents that they didn’t want kids moved like chess pieces to make the numbers work. Some numbers are out of whack because certain programs or school buildings have become too popular, overcrowded. School population is up, population forecasts are up, and the district sees some opportunities to attract even more students to public schools while making education better for those already here.

After another round of meetings to explain the plan and gather more feedback, the school board is expected to vote at their Dec. 10 meeting; administrators presented the plan Nov. 12 at the board’s monthly meeting. The current plan causes moves or program changes for about 10 percent of the district’s population.

How is Northeast affected? In terms of students having to move, not much. After proposing a new attendance area that followed the river and moved the Sheridan Arts Magnet to Cityview, the recommendation now is to keep the arts program at Sheridan while cutting two of five kindergarten classrooms and phasing in Spanish dual immersion classrooms a year at a time. The two school programs would operate in the same school.

Currently, most of Sheridan’s population buses in from North Minneapolis. Sheridan parents from Northeast met with administrators and expressed that they were most concerned what would happen if their kids were attending Cityview and missed the school bus, the same concerns Sheridan parents from North Minneapolis have about their students now, said Michael Thomas, associate superintendent for Area A, which includes North, Northeast and Downtown.

Cityview (located near Lowry Avenue, a few blocks west of the river atop I-94) would open for Pre-K and Kindergarten in 2014, growing to grade 5, which might attract some students now at Sheridan. Cityview would “pathway” to Olson Middle School in North Minneapolis starting in 2015-16, and support a pathway to either Edison or Patrick Henry for high school. Pierre Bottineau French Immersion would move to Cityview as well. They have outgrown the Hmong International Academy building that they share; their middle school pathway is yet to be determined.

New students from downtown and a Northeast attendance area “1-G” south of 17th Avenue NE, Broadway, or Hennepin would attend a re-opened Webster, 425 5th St. NE, which would be remodeled to remedy an open classroom design that turned out to not work so well. It would be classified a “community” school. The rest of the new proposed attendance boundaries are: Interstates 94 and 394 on the west, 12th Street on the southwest, 35W on the south, and city limits east.

Though the details are fuzzy, administrators say they have heard that these 1-G parents want them to “Engage families and communities to support high school program development.” At a meeting at Northeast Middle School, downtown parents expressed concerns about their children ending up at Edison High School, and want more assurance that the school will be a quality experience for their children (who are now toddlers) by the time they are in high school.

Project Manager LeAnn Dow and Thomas told the Northeaster that a Downtown School Initiative Group has formed that is “looking for an option” and that the Minneapolis 2025 Plan sees a strong downtown community school as a component of the ability to grow the downtown population. Thomas said, “Many may be a zero to one car family. We are getting more families choosing to stay downtown and raise a family.” In 2012, there were 276 children ages 1-3 in the North Loop, Downtown East and Downtown West areas.

Earlier this month, on about a day’s notice, Thomas held a meeting at Marcy Open School to explore a plan to move the school’s program, wholesale, to Sheridan to give it more room and attract downtown families. About 200 current Marcy supporters turned out intending to shut down that plan, making the point that the school where it is has access to community resources that would not be interested in Sheridan. It’s close to the University of Minnesota, a park and the river,; a labyrinth on school grounds was built by community people. Sheridan has no safe green space on its busy corner, some argued.

Many Northeast families attend Marcy. Some parents and teachers, noting that Marcy was built for about 500 students and is accommodating closer to 800 in K through 8, entertained the idea of moving some students to a dual campus, or challenged the district’s policies which have placed students there who weren’t seeking the Open program. One asked essentially “if we agree to move to Sheridan will you tear up the parking lot and make green space?” Others were less conciliatory, asking why current thriving students were being asked to move to make room for downtown students who don’t yet exist.

But, as Thomas said, “honoring the core value of least disruption” the planners chose to drop the proposed move. Asked if “grandfathering,” the ability for a child to stay at a building even if their program moves, is guaranteed, Thomas said that has not been settled.

In the current plan, dubbed “2.0”, there are other changes that could affect Northeast school populations. Students at Hall in North Minneapolis—who now graduate to Northeast Middle School—would soon have a re-opened Franklin Middle School close by. Stronger International Baccalaureate pathways would be established to both Edison and Henry.

So far, 184 people from Area A have attended information and comment sessions. There is a follow-up community session planned for Area A (also known as Zone 1) Nov. 18 at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, 6 p.m. Special sessions can be requested based on language or affinity groups, and comments can be registered online.

Other than board members Jenny Arneson of Northeast who spoke first, and Rebecca Gagnon who voiced a few questions and then stated she had already emailed all her questions, the board agreed to submit their questions in writing in order to move the (going on 6 hour) agenda along, Nov. 12.

Parent/community comments, questions, support and concerns may be addressed to enrollmentplan [at] mpls [dot] k12 [dot] mn [dot] us and the information website is www.mpls.k12.mn.us/five-year_enrollment_plan.html

The web page studentaccounting.mpls. k12.mn.us/ gives access to information about where the students in each Minneapolis Public School live.

Related: Parents prevail: Minneapolis school district drops plans to move Marcy (Sarah Lahm, 2013)

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