Park View Montessori, a Minneapolis public school, moves out of its Golden Valley space and into Bryn Mawr Elementary School’s building next fall. However, school officials insist the programs will remain independent, sharing a 252 Upton Ave. S. campus but not much more.
Some families said that the combination gives them more choice within one site. At least one person said the story isn’t that straightforward.
Park View Principal Joy Blanchard stressed that the shift was "congenial" and "uncontroversial." Likewise, Bryn Mawr Principal Nanette Yurecko said that she is glad just to have more kids in the hallways.
The new educational roommates were thrust together by district finances. Bryn Mawr’s enrollment has waned in recent years, while Park View – which has a waiting list – was housed in costly leased space in Golden Valley.
Next fall, the schools will use separate entrances, separate gyms and even hear separate morning announcements – easy enough, since the intercom is computerized and broadcasters just flip a switch to route their proclamations.
The Park View-Bryn Mawr combination is different than the district’s other Montessori-Community pairing. While Southwest Armatage School has separate Community and Montessori programs, the 2501 W. 56th St. school shares a principal and assets.
Most parents from both schools said that they’re OK sharing spaces. Bryn Mawr resident and parent Pamela Wolfe, who’s also a Minneapolis high school teacher, said that while starting at 7:30 a.m. would be challenging for her son, it would be worth it to keep Bryn Mawr open. She said that, overall, she’s been satisfied with Bryn Mawr and was optimistic about the move.
Blanchard said most Park View parents wanted the programs to remain discrete.
Park View’s PTA President Sheila Potvin, who lives in Brooklyn Center and has a 3rd-grade son in the school, said that the main parent concern was that the Montessori be relocated as a whole. "We’re Park View, not Bryn Mawr. We have a good reputation," said Potvin.
Bryn Mawr resident Elaine Eschenbacher said that the strong language she’d heard about keeping the schools apart has seemed like a negative to her.
Eschenbacher, whose oldest son attends Bryn Mawr, said that while she’s content with the community program, she’s considered switching him to Park View. "We [parents] are in the funny situation of trying to decide between two really good options," Eschenbacher said.
She wishes educators had explored possible synergies and criticized rhetoric for emphasizing the schools’ division so much. "I’d like to see them share resources and see what can do together. It makes sense to keep them separate, but the degree to which they’re underscoring the separateness is disappointing."
Still, she acknowledges the separation sentiment comes from both sides. "I was hoping that some openness would be present among Bryn Mawr, but they have their own model as a community school and they want to maintain the integrity of it," she said.
Next fall, Park View’s desks, school store and other equipment will be packed up and moved into Bryn Mawr. The new building even restores the school’s backyard "park view" of Theodore Wirth Park, for which it was originally named. Park View will install its native computer and media labs.
In turn, Bryn Mawr will transfer all of its community school classes to the building’s center portion while Park View will reside in the older section- which Blanchard said would serve its purpose just as well. "You don’t move into someone’s house and ask for the master suite," she said.
But will Park View fit comfortably inside Bryn Mawr? Will both schools have elbowroom?
Blanchard and Yurecko said "yes." Although there’s only one room at Bryn Mawr that’s now vacant, the potential spots for Park View have previously been filled just with special projects, not regular classes.
Yurecko said the move will undoubtedly require some adjustment, but the school hosts so many programs that they’re accustomed to musical chairs.
Blanchard said that the relocation will be nothing new for Park View either, since they’d moved several times in the past 25 years – a haul that previously took about seven semi-trucks. The two principals said that they planned to put their heads together to make it work.
The Montessori school’s arrival will create a Park View-Bryn Mawr-Anwatin complex, since Anwatin Middle School is connected via hallways to Bryn Mawr.
There will be some inconvenience; Bryn Mawr parents will have to get their kids to school at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8:05 a.m., to coordinate with Park View’s earlier schedule. Meanwhile, Park View’s kids will have an extra seven minutes added to their commute time.
District spokesperson Sarah Snapp espoused the virtues of the Park View-Bryn Mawr collaboration, which could let families send different kids to different programs at the same site.
Potvin said that although the Montessori didn’t intend to draw people out, if some parents chose Park View, then they’d accommodate them.
However, Eschenbacher fears a sting from the Bryn Mawr community if she moves any kids to Park View. She isn’t aware of any other parents who might follow suit. "It’s a pretty tight community, and there’s a rival attitude," she said.
Bryn Mawr PTA President and school staffer JoEllen Jolstad – who some described as a fierce advocate for Bryn Mawr and heavily involved with Bryn Mawr activities – declined to comment on the merger. She said that she’d been specifically instructed not to discuss the move with this reporter without permission from the district’s communications department. Snapp from communications later said that she’d been unable to get in touch with Jolstad to open up a conversation.
The Journal also asked to speak to teachers about their hopes for the future – whether crossing program lines is a good idea. Both principals required the Journal to get district permission; Snapp said no teachers were willing to discuss the move because they were tired of talking about it.
Blanchard said that she was under the impression that there was no possibility that the two schools would cooperate more in terms of joint resources and faculty. Yurecko said that it was too early to guess if they’d ever consider sharing other physical resources or specialists. She also didn’t know how introducing the other program would impact Bryn Mawr enrollment.