St. Paul Public Schools, faced with decreased enrollment and subsequent budget shortfalls, is considering a district-wide plan that would close five current schools and impact 11 other sites.
The plan, presented under the Envision SPPS banner, was discussed at a special meeting Monday, during which officials walked through a PowerPoint presentation (see it here) detailing all of the recommended moves. The plan, if approved during the expected Nov. 16 Board of Education vote, would ultimately impact around 2,949 students, according to the district's presentation.
Here is a list of all the closures, relocations and merges that are being discussed:
L'Étoile du Nord French Immersion Lower School
Relocate students in the lower school to the L'Étoile du Nord French Immersion Upper School, creating a K-5 school. The former Lower building would be "reenvisioned."
Riverview West Side School of Excellence
This school would be closed, and the program merged with Cherokee Heights, giving it "stronger growth potential."
LEAP High School
The school, which specifically serves children new to the U.S., would close. Students would move to a different language academy or an alternative program, and the LEAP facility would be repurposed.
Galtier Community Elementary School
The district wants to close Galtier and relocate the students with Hamline, creating a new Hamline-Galtier community program. The Galtier facility would potentially become an early childhood education hub.
Cherokee Montessori Elementary/J.J. Hill Monteessori Magnet
The Montessori students here would be moved to J.J. Hill, with the Cherokee building reopening as an Area D community school. The merged Cherokee-J.J. Hill program would then relocate to the repurposed Obama facility, once new construction is complete (see below for more).
Highwood Hills Elementary
Highwood Hills, which dropped from 247 to 175 students, would be shuttered. They could then choose from other Area B community schools or magnet options, with the Highwood Hills building repurposed.
Jackson would be closed, with students going elsewhere. Jackson Hmong Dual Language students would be merged at Phalen Lake Hmong Dual Language, while Jackson Community students would go to Maxfield.
Parkway Montessori Middle School
Close the grades 6-8 Parkway, and repurpose it as a Hmong Dual Immersion middle school program school. Parkway students would go to their area middle school instead.
John A. Johnson Elementary
Close the K-5 school and merge those students with Bruce Vento. The current Bruce Vento building is in line to be replaced, meaning the new structure would be tailored to the new program.
The Obama school would be closed and the site repurposed. Current students would to go their community school or a magnet option. The PK-5 J.J. Hill and Cherokee Montessori programs would merge and be relocated to the Obama facility, which would also add a grades 6-8, non-Montessori program. This would be done once remodeling at Obama is finished.
Wellstone would be closed, with students diverted a couple of ways: Those in the Spanish Dual Immersion program would go to Riverview, while the Biosmart students could head to district science magnets or community schools. This would create a stronger Spanish Dual Immersion program a Riverview, the district says.
What's behind these changes?
Enrollment has been dropping in recent years, and is expected to plummet further based on declining birth rates across the city (a trend seen statewide we well). This will compound financial troubles at smaller schools, since state and federal funding may not be sufficient. (The presentation linked above gets into this in detail, if you want to know more.)
The district could take from the general fund, as it has been, to cover these costs, taking resources from the larger, well-funded schools. But this will ultimately "chip away" at these programs to their detriment, officials say.
Larger schools can also be more efficient, the district argues, and can provide more affordable, school-time activities such as field trips. (Currently, small schools often have to offer these experiences after school, which creates disparities between these students and those at other, larger sites.)
"SPPS is committed to managing our resources wisely so we can fulfill our promise to families to prepare students to think critically so they can pursue their dreams and change the world," the Envision SPPS site says. "The time has come for us to implement long-term, sustainable solutions to ensure all students have equitable access to the well-rounded education they deserve now and into the future."