Various Local School Stories
State may force city schools to end High Five program
High Five, a Minneapolis Public Schools readiness program for kids who turn 5 shortly after the Sept. 1 kindergarten cutoff date may be canceled after this school year, according to a school district letter sent to parents.
Spokespersons for the state of Minnesota said earlier this month that they could not spend state funds on the
Minneapolis program, as they have done for 15 years.
High Five serves kids who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 31 and is open to any income level. Twenty-four Minneapolis public schools offer the program, including Jefferson, Armatage, Kenny, Whittier, Bryn Mawr and Lyndale in Southwest. The program costs Minneapolis $1.5 million and currently serves 600 kids.
Bill Walsh, Minnesota Department of Education communications director, said that current state law allows funding for 1st-grade preparatory programs, but High Five prepares students for kindergarten.
Walsh said Minneapolis is "generating two years of kindergarten revenue when state law provides for only one."
Walsh said the issue came up after suburban districts wanted to create a similar program and have the state help pay, as it does for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Robbinsdale. That would cost the state millions of new dollars.
"There is no doubt about the value of the High Five program," Walsh said. "The real issue is fairness. There are 4-year-olds and parents around the state that would love if the state would fund a program for prekindergarten. Most districts don’t do it because it is not within the confines of state law."
Maureen Seiwert, director of Minneapolis schools’ prekindergarten education, said High Five has not changed in the 15 years since state funding began. She said that a state statute that allows school districts to establish their own 1st-grade admission standards makes the program legal in Minnesota.
"We have been operating openly and honestly with the state all along," Seiwert said. "There needs to be some real clarification as to the intent of the legislation and how it is going to be interpreted by the Department of Education."
Seiwart notes the irony of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration cutting off pre-kindergarten programs when Pawlenty is calling for all kids to read by the end of 1st grade. "The governor’s proposal … will not happen if kids are not given the proper foundation, which means strong preschool experience," she said.
The issue may be decided during the coming legislative session that begins in February.
— Bob Gilbert
New Whittier liquor store gets recommendation
A Whittier Alliance committee has recommended the City Council approve a new liquor store at 2750 Nicollet Ave. S.
Isidro Perez will own Marissa’s Liquor Store, connected via a common vestibule to a new 12,000-square-foot grocery store. The Whittier neighborhood group’s Transportation and Land Use Committee approved the recommendation Jan. 13.
Committee Chair Jeff Carlson said he has been in the building and the liquor store is the smaller of the two spaces. He said the interior includes brick archways that make the space look like a Mexican village. Perez also owns Marissa’s Bakeries in Whittier and Kingfield.
Said Carlson, "Even the people who are opposed to the liquor store had nothing but good things to say about Isidro Perez. He put in a big new sign and a bike rack. He employs 25 people and is a good member of the community."
Whittier Alliance Executive Director Angela Currier said support for the liquor store is not universal. "Some people aren’t too enthused about having another liquor store on Nicollet Avenue. There is the fear that it will increase the same problems we currently have, like public drunkenness, public urination, and disorderly conduct."
Laura Boyd, a former Minneapolis employee turned licensing consultant who works for Perez, said she understands the community’s concerns and said he will avoid the problems to which other liquor stores in the area have contributed.
How will Perez do that?
Said Boyd, "By the investment you make in your property, in your faade, your interior and the products that you sell, which are all upscale [at Perez’s establishment]. It’s a matter of who you market your products to. He will not be selling single cans of beer, fortified wines, pints and half pints that appeal to chronic inebriates."
Perez’s next step in the regulatory process is a Minneapolis Planning Commission hearing. No date has been scheduled yet.
— Bob Gilbert
Peace groups meet Jan. 24
Peace in the Precincts, a Minnesota-based coalition of citizens from established peace organizations and neighborhoods, plans to meet Saturday, Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. at the First Universalist Church in Minneapolis, 3400 Dupont Ave. S. to discuss strategy for the upcoming precinct caucuses.
Peace in the Precincts hopes to form a unified political force from the 8,000 people who marched against the Iraq war last spring, a flyer said.
The group will unveil its top five priorities, identified through small group "kitchen table" discussions during the effort’s first phase. Organizers will ask participants to ratify the resolution and set precinct caucus strategy and turnout goals, the flyer said.
Registration begins at 1:30 p.m. For more information or to register, go online at www.peaceintheprecincts.org
— Scott Russell