SPPS says downtown schools will start “on time” during RNC

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Despite the potential chaos in downtown St Paul during the Republican National Convention next week, St Paul Public Schools will remain open, according to Howie Padilla, the [Public Relations Coordinator at SPPS. Kindergarten classes have been pushed back to the Monday following Labor Day, but grades 1 through 12 will otherwise start as planned on Tuesday.

Padilla was reluctant to go into detail about what made the district confident that neither marchers, nor other protesters who plan to “shut down the RNC” by keeping Republican Party delegates from traveling from their hotels to the Convention Center, will not impede school busses and parents taking their children to schools in downtown St Paul.

Some activists compare their efforts in St Paul to the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, where protesters formed a human chain around the Organization’s meeting-place, preventing delegates from meeting for two days.

“Some things are not under our control,” he said, referring to what he described as a decision by St Paul police not to extensively discuss convention preparations with the media. However, “we will certainly keep our [students’] families informed,” Padilla said.

Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary (65 E. Kellogg Boulevard) is located in downtown St Paul, just a few blocks from the RNC at the Xcel Center (175 West Kellogg Boulevard.) Franklin Elementary (690 Jackson Street) and the Open School (90 Western Avenue South) also are located near Downtown. All three accept students from across the city, who are bused to school.

Tom Walsh, the St Paul Police Department’s media contact for the RNC, said the decision was based on the timing of the protest – scheduled during the day — versus the timing of the convention – scheduled for the evening. “Look at the timetables,” he said. “Do these people want to interrupt our children’s education?”

“We never said the day would be absolutely smooth,” Walsh said, but he scoffed at the idea that marchers’ intentions to close downtown would be an obstacle.

James Sanna is a freelance writer and an intern covering education issues for the Daily Planet. Email james.sanna@gmail.com