REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK: Big changes in Minneapolis, St. Paul schools

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School change is coming in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and if the exact dimensions are not clear, that may be good — because you still have time to think, speak, and contribute to the decision-making.

The Minneapolis Changing School Options recommendations were presented to the board of education April 28, with the expectation of a vote on May 26, after “family and community engagement meetings” in May. The May 26 vote and the May meetings were postponed at a school board work session on May 5. The press release from Superintendent Bill Green noted that “Board members indicated the recommendation in its current form would not gain the majority vote required to pass on May 26.” According to the press release, a new schedule of community meetings will be set, probably within a week.

What we know

In Minneapolis
Minneapolis Public Schools is facing both budgetary and educational challenges. The budget challenges include a shortfall for 2009-2010 and subsequent years. This plan, however, is only partly about cutting costs. MPS says that the major objectives for the Changing School Options initiative are:
• Get students closer to home to reduce transportation costs.
• Reduce but maintain choice for families.
• Ensure adequate program size for efficient use of limited resources (24-25 classrooms and 3 kindergarten sections in an elementary school).
• Maintain flexibility for growth.
• Uphold commitments to the North Side Initiative.

Here’s the Minneapolis Changing School Options Recommendations document. The MPS website also has the comprehensive plan and supporting data The plan has more theory and general concepts, while the supporting data has fascinating information (okay, I’m a wonk!), presented with easy-to-understand graphics.

In St. Paul
Roosevelt, on the city’s West Side; Longfellow, near Merriam Park; and Sheridan, on the East Side would close under a new SPPS plan/ The Sheridan building could be repurposed for other programs, but the other two buildings would be shuttered. Like Minneapolis, St. Paul plans to revise school missions and decrease busing, moving more children into community schools. The proposal is scheduled for a school board vote in June, and two public meetings will be held May 12 at Central High School and May 28 at Harding High School.

Here’s the SPPS press release. We also recommend today’s Pioneer Press article for an overview of proposed changes. The district also has the complete presentation on the proposal, but it’s fairly heavy reading.

Your opinions

Minneapolis residents have many forums for discussion, from a feedback form on the MPS website to the longstanding Yahoo group called the MPS Parents Forum and the Minneapolis E-Democracy forum to the newer Open Area forum. We are working on three TC Daily Planet forums that will present basic outlines of the facts and issues, and invite your contributions to the discussion, in a forum that will be completely public and open. The three forum articles will focus on:

1) More community schools, less busing
2) “Demagnetizing” Minneapolis: Why? How?
3) Diversity, integration, segregation and schools

The first article will be posted on May 7.

We also plan one (or possibly more) St. Paul forums by next week.

If you would like to contribute an opinion or analysis of the proposals, you can post it directly as an article, email us (lisa@tcdailyplanet.net or editor@tcdailyplanet.net), or click on the comment link at the bottom of this (or any) article. If you would like to send us information, a tip or an idea about how you think the story should be covered, email lisa@tcdailyplanet.net or editor@tcdailyplanet.net.

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