The St. Paul Board of Education voted Tuesday night to close Roosevelt and Longfellow elementary schools, but spared Sheridan, which had also been on the list. The 5-1 vote on Roosevelt came after the board heard more pleas from West Side residents to spare their community school. The schools will remain open for the 2009-10 school year, and will close for the 2010-11 school year.
Board member Keith Hardy spoke to the strengths of Roosevelt, saying that “in a lot of ways, Roosevelt embodies what we are looking for in a school and a community.” He talked about the high degree of participation of families, especially Latino and Asian immigrant families, with 90% coming to parent-teacher conferences and participating in other ways. “Where that community has been working so hard, with many successes, especially this century in rebuilding the image of the West Side … This is a community that is doing what we want them to do. What kind of message are we going to send as a board if we vote to close Roosevelt, deep in the heart of the West Side?” He ended by asking board members to vote no at this point, reminding them that this could be reconsidered again in the spring.
Board discussion focused on the financial deficit, with members pointing out that closing Roosevelt is projected to save $630,000 in the 2010-11 school year. (“Repurposing” Sheridan would have saved about $500,000.)
Board chair Kazoua Kong Thao called Roosevelt a wonderful school, but said that keeping Roosevelt open would mean closing another school, and that the real problem is bigger than St. Paul – it’s what is going on in the rest of the state and the country. She said that the money just isn’t there, and “I’m scared to even think about what next year is going to look like.”
Passionate comment at the July 21 Board of Education meeting echoed the pleas made over the past months: “Please don’t close our school.” At this meeting, Roosevelt alums, parents, teachers, volunteers and community members spoke, telling the story of St. Paul’s West Side community and schools.