District pushes back decision on school choice

New timeline adds community meetings in May

Minneapolis Public Schools gave itself two more weeks Thursday to consider changes to its school choice system that could result in school closings, fewer busing options and changes in school attendance boundaries.

The Minneapolis School Board now plans to hear final recommendations from district administration April 28 instead of April 14. A vote on the plan, called Changing School Options, was rescheduled to May 26 from May 12.

Community meetings to discuss the Changing School Options proposal will be held the weeks of May 4 and May 11, the district reported. A public hearing will be scheduled the week of May 18.

Director of Communications Stan Alleyne said state law required the district to hold a public hearing within two weeks of announcing a potential school closing. The district has not named potential targets for closing.

Any school closings — like most of the other changes proposed under Changing School Options — would not happen until the 2010–2011 school year. Still, board members and administrators have discussed the possibility that a worsening financial situation could force them to make some changes next school year.

The district held a series of community meetings in February and March to present different school choice scenarios and gather community feedback. All of the scenarios would reduce the number of program options families now have.

District leaders say the change is needed to create a leaner, more efficient school district. The changes would save money on transportation and underused school buildings — savings that are desperately needed as the district faces its eighth consecutive budget shortfall.

The district projects a $28 million budget shortfall for the 2009–2010 school year. That shortfall would grow if education funding were cut in ongoing state budget process.

The district recently updated the Changing School Options section of its website with a 24-page document summarizing parent feedback to the different school choice scenarios.