Ideas flow at South Minneapolis community meeting on school enrollment: Northeast and North meetings this week

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Last Saturday morning (June 18) at Green Central Park School in South Minneapolis,  Minneapolis Public Schools continued the series of engagement meetings to involve the community, obtain ideas, and educate parents about a projected increase in school enrollment. Participants numbered about 30 people including parents, teachers, neighbors, early education and family advocates, and MPS district staff. 

The remaining meetings will be held on Wednesday, June 22, 6-8 p.m. at Pillsbury/Windom Park Community Center, 2251 Hayes St. NE in Northeast Minneapolis and on Thursday, June 23, 6-8 p.m. at North Commons Park, 1801 James Avenue N. in North Minneapolis.

District staff shared and discussed census data and current enrollment trends with attendees for the first 30 minutes of the meeting. Staff pointed out that, while parents can feel encouraged that increased demand means quality schools for their kids, the increase will also raise issues of space and resources.  In Areas 2 and 3, which include such neighborhoods as Northrup, Anderson, Hiawatha, Lyndale, Burroughs, Hale Field and others, requests for 2011 kindergarten have significantly increased.  Area 2 confronts a four percent increase and Area 3 must cope with a 10 percent increase.  More parents are choosing Minneapolis public schools for their children after the drop in past years. 

“We want the community to know that we are listening to them,” said Jill Davis, Board Chair and, the public seems ready present ideas.  District staff asked attendees to break into several smaller groups for a brainstorming session.  Stakeholders were from all over the city and were not only parents directly affected by changes that might occur in Areas 2 and 3. 

Each group was then invited to present ideas.  Concepts ranged from broad, long term approaches to how to handle enrollment at specific facilities.  Ideas included split campuses, centralizing early childhood programs, limiting employee preference, and opening unused facilities.  The desire to establish a science and technology magnet school was one idea shared by several groups, but there were also opposing desires, such as the establishment of middle schools instead of K-8 facilities. 

After two more engagement meetings, MPS plans an initial review of all the ideas presented in meetings to narrow down possibilities.  The next step, according to Courtney Kiernat, Special Projects Coordinator, is to establish smaller groups of stakeholders from each area to explore the most promising ideas and then to present a recommendation for action to the Board of Education in October.

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