Schools restructuring plan tweaked ahead of vote

Grandfathering strengthened while Bryn Mawr changes are scaled back

Minneapolis Public Schools administrators responded to several areas of community concern, tweaking aspects of a major district restructuring plan just ahead of a School Board vote.

The Changing School Options plan now includes strengthened rules for grandfathering students into their current schools after attendance boundaries change in 2010, and it also slows the transition in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. The School Board is to vote on the plan, under development for about 18 months, at their meeting Tuesday night.

The plan’s grandfathering rules were a point of contention at a series of town hall meetings on Changing School Options held across the district in recent weeks. Many parents complained that the rules were so weak they did not match the definition of “grandfathering,” or allowing an exception to new rules based on previously existing conditions.

In this case, parents wanted a guarantee children could remain in their current schools after attendance boundaries were redrawn, even if they had to provide their own transportation. The previous version of Changing School Options only allowed for grandfathering after all students within the new attendance boundaries had been seated.

For parents with children in the district’s most popular and crowded schools, the policy offered little reassurance.

Now, the district is offering a guaranteed seat for magnet, middle and high school students, but it still will not offer busing. In documents posted on the Minneapolis Public Schools website Monday, it acknowledged some schools would see temporary class size increases.

The same offer was not extended to students in community schools, who will only get a seat if space is available and must provide their own transportation.

The other tweak of Changing School Options modified plans for a school site in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood that is shared by Bryn Mawr Community School, Park View Montessori and Anwatin Middle School.

Previously, Changing School Options called for the closure of both Park View and Anwatin. Park View still will close, but Anwatin would be phased-out over two years under the revised plan.

Anwatin’s closure was intended to make room for the Emerson Spanish Dual Immersion program, currently located just south of Downtown. It would have shared the site with Bryn Mawr Community School, which also was set to expand from a K–5 to a K–8.

Now, Bryn Mawr is recommended to remain a K–5. Emerson still will move to the site, and middle grades students will have the option to enter a new combined dual immersion and International Baccalaureate program at the site.

The change does not address another concern of Bryn Mawr residents. After years of access to Southwest-area middle and high school choices, they are being moved into a new transportation zone and will share school choices with North and Northeast neighborhoods.

Changing School Options will save the district an estimated $8.2 million every year by cutting spending on transportation and facilities. The changes are necessary for long-term financial stability and academic improvements, district officials have said.

Under previous estimates, up to 19 percent of students would change schools in 2010. It was unclear how the decision to phase-out Anwatin affected that number.

To download the revised plan recommendations, click here.