Schools Notebook // District superintendent a top communicator

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson was honored in March for her public relations skills.

The Minnesota School Public Relations Association presented its District Leadership for Excellence in Communications Award to Johnson on March 16, honoring her outreach efforts with both district staff and families. Those efforts include Homeroom with Superintendent Johnson, a series of visits to school sites that Johnson inaugurated in the 2010–2011 school year, her first as superintendent, to get direct feedback from the teachers and staff members at those schools.

She may not have kept up her blog (mpls.k12.mn.us/blog.html) much beyond that first year as superintendent, but Johnson has had more success with other outreach efforts, including Soup with the Supe. The monthly community meetings are held at various locations around the district, with dinner provided for the families who attend.

Soup with the Supe hits Southwest next month with an event scheduled noon–2 p.m. April 14 at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park Recreation Center, 4055 Nicollet Ave. S.

Public forum on Lake Harriet expansion

LINDEN HILLS — The district is hosting an open public forum April 10 on plans to build an $11-million addition at the Lake Harriet Community School Lower Campus.

The School Board approved the expansion plan in the fall, and construction of the design by Luken Architecture is tentatively scheduled to begin in June. The projected completion date is summer 2013.

The new addition at the lower campus is intended to alleviate crowding at the popular Southwest school. At the time of the School Board vote in September, district enrollment projections indicated the K–8, dual-campus school would have 1,174 students by 2013, far over its 1,050-student capacity.

Currently, Lake Harriet students attend the lower campus from kindergarten through second grade and then move on to the school’s upper campus, but that will change when the lower campus addition opens. At that time, third-grade classrooms will move to the lower campus from the upper campus.

District spokesperson Latisha Gray said previous public forums on the construction project attracted sparse crowds, and the district aimed to involve more community members in the process with the April meeting. That meeting starts at 5 p.m. April 10 in the gymnasium at the lower campus, 4030 Chowen Ave. S.

The school’s website has two pages dedicated to the expansion project: lakeharriet.mpls.k12.mn.us/faqs and lakeharriet.mpls.k12.mn.us/project_updates.

Students challenged to eat more fruits and veggies

A program running this month in some district schools aims to increase the number of students who eat three to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

HealthPartners launched the “yumPower” challenge in St. Paul Public Schools in January and brought its four-week program to Minneapolis in March. Students are asked to track their consumption of fruits and vegetables over four weeks, and those schools with the highest participation rates by the time the program ends this month could win $300­–$500 grants for their lunchrooms.

Among the participating Minneapolis schools are the Bryn Mawr, Jefferson, Lake Harriet and Lyndale community schools and Ramsey International Fine Arts Center. To learn more about the program, go to healthpartners.com/yumpower.

2012–2013 calendar adds four days

The 2012–2013 school year calendar approved March 13 by the School Board adds four instructional days for students, bringing Minneapolis classroom time more in line with other metro-area school districts.

The 176-day calendar, developed by a district committee with feedback from staff, parents and students, shortens the Thanksgiving holiday break by one day and shrinks winter break to seven days from 10. Students will be in school next year on Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving, and will return from winter break immediately after New Years Day, on Jan. 2.

A presentation to the School Board in February noted Minneapolis’ current 172 instructional days were several fewer than other area districts like St. Paul and Richfield, which both have students in class 175 days, and far fewer than some successful charter schools.