District restructuring to save $8.2 million

Up to 20 percent of students may switch schools because of changes

Revisions to a Minneapolis Public Schools restructuring plan spared one Southwest school site from closure, but still called for significant changes here and across the district in 2010.

The School Board at its Sept. 1 meeting listened to district administrators’ final recommendation on Changing School Options, an effort to downsize the district for the 2010–2011 school year. The district will close five schools, end some programs and reduce transportation costs by keeping students in schools closer to their homes.

The estimated savings total $8.2 million annually. An earlier version of the plan, rejected by the School Board in the spring, included $7.5 million–$8.5 million in savings.

District officials said Changing School Options would put the district on better footing to deal with declining enrollment and an expected $14 million budget shortfall in 2010.

In his presentation to the board, Superintendent Bill Green emphasized the role of district financial stability in student success.

“We would not be making changes to our system if we did not believe they were essential for academic success,” Green said.

The plan the School Board will vote on Sept. 22 went through a series of revisions over the summer.

The final version included a compromise on a contentious plan to consolidate the district’s two Spanish immersion schools. Parents who rallied in August to maintain two separate school sites apparently won over district administration, because Windom Dual Spanish Immersion in Southwest was removed from the final list of 2010 school closings.

Protests from families in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood did not have the same effect. Long linked to other Southwest neighborhoods, Bryn Mawr will be separated from Southwest when the district implements three new transportation zones in 2010.

Those transportation zones split the city into three geographic areas. With few exceptions, students will attend schools in their transportation zones in an effort to hold down busing costs.

Changes in Southwest

An estimated 5,790 students, or about 19 percent of the district, are likely to switch schools because of program closings, shifting school attendance boundaries and other changes. The district estimated white students and students of color to be nearly equally affected by the changes.

Here are some of the changes coming to Southwest in 2010:

— Windom and Emerson dual Spanish immersion schools are combined but maintain separate campuses. Emerson moves, but Windom remains as a K–5 school in its current location.

— Anwatin Middle School closes to make room for Emerson. Bryn Mawr Community School, currently a K–5 program at the same location, expands to a K–8 and shares resources with Emerson, also a K–8.

The Park View Montessori Program at that site ends.

— The Bryn Mawr neighborhood joins North and Northeast neighborhoods in transportation Zone 1 while the rest of Southwest is in Zone 3.

— Kenwood Performing Arts Magnet ends as a magnet program, but may keep its arts theme.

— The Armatage Community School program ends, but the site’s Montessori magnet program continues. Nearby Kenny Community School is the new community school option for Armatage residents.

— Through a voluntary integration program, students in some North neighborhoods will have the option to bus to Lake Harriet Community School and Southwest High School. The same program links Burroughs Community School to an area in South.

— Lyndale Community School is the new community school for the East Harriet and Kingfield neighborhoods, closing a so-called “open” attendance area because it had no guaranteed community school option.

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Parents react

Green said Changing School Options was designed to minimize the impact on students and staff and limit the number forced to leave their current school. But in a diverse and complex district, no plan could satisfy all families, he added.

Colleen Simmons of Windom, who has three children in dual Spanish immersion, said she was “ecstatic” Changing School Options preserved two campuses for the program.

Lynda Shaheen, a parent of two at Bryn Mawr Community School, had a much different reaction.

Shaheen said many in Bryn Mawr were surprised and disappointed this summer when they realized the new transportation boundary cut Bryn Mawr off from the rest of Southwest. Bryn Mawr families who were considering middle and high school options in Southwest no longer have the option to bus to those schools.

“All of a sudden, I feel like we’re the most impacted part of the city because our elementary is changing, our middle is changing and our high school is changing,” she said.

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Town hall meetings

District leaders will present the Changing School Options plan and answer questions at a series of four town hall meetings in September.

Southwest families will attend one of two meetings (see below). Both run 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

— Sept. 9 (for Bryn Mawr neighborhood families) Sheridan Global Arts and Communications School, 1201 University Ave. NE

— Sept. 14 (for the rest of Southwest)

Washburn High School, 201 W. 49th St.