As the Minneapolis School District works through its restructuring process, there's been a flurry of questions about North High School's enrollment and its viability as a secondary option for Minneapolis students.

With about 550 students, North is the smallest of Minneapolis' seven high school campuses and operates out of a building that could accommodate between 1,800 and 2,000 students,

District officials have supported keeping North High open and turning it into the city's first small specialty school in time for the 2010-11 school year. This fall, North also will share space with Dunwoody Academy, a charter school that serves about 200 students and emphasizes vocational and technical programs.

Dateline Minneapolis spoke with North High Principal Ellen Stewart recently about the new North plan. Stewart said several North staff members, including teachers Natalie Rasmussen and David Sylvestre and counselor George Mountin, met for several months to devise a strategy for phasing in the plan. To lay the foundation, many changes are planned for this fall.

Under the plan, all incoming freshmen and current North High students must apply for admission to the program. Applications for the 2009 school year are due June 10. All students who submit a complete application will be admitted as long as space allows.

Students must pledge to maintain at least a 2.0 or C grade average, attend school at least 98 percent of the year, and devote three hours each night to studying and completing their homework.

North High parents must agree to maintain contact with their child's teachers and ensure the student attends school regularly, among other requirements.

"The reason why we're doing it now is we want every single student at North to say, 'We want to be here,' " Sylvestre said. "We think even for the students who are here now this will make them move their game up. We're all feeling that urgency and energy to move it forward."

North students will choose courses from two areas beginning with their junior year: a science, technology, engineering and math program called "summatech," and an arts and digital media program that includes animation, digital video and web design courses.

International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses will be integrated into each area. North is expected to achieve full IB authorization during the 2010 school year.

"We'll have a strong focus on math and science, and every student, no matter what they do their junior and senior year, will have that foundation," Stewart said. "They're all intense, high-rigor classes in ninth and tenth grade."

Stewart said a team of North High staff and students recently met with eighth graders at Lucy Laney and Nellie Stone Johnson elementary schools and at Northeast, Afrocentric Academy and Anwatin middle schools. The eighth graders are planning to attend the school next year.

"We're going over so that they can get an opportunity to meet us before school starts," she said. "We're trying to bridge that gap between middle school and high school to make the transition easier."

For more information about the new North plan, call the school's information line at 612-668-1737 or the North High counseling department at 612-668-1755.

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The restructuring plan Minneapolis school officials originally submitted to the school board on April 28 is still being revised.

School board members raised several objections to the plan after it was released and their suggestions will be incorporated into a new plan to be unveiled this summer. The board is expected to vote on the revised plan and accompanying attendance boundaries in late September.

For more information about the restructuring plan or the public comment process, visit or call 612-668-0230.

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Goodbye: I am leaving the Star Tribune to pursue a graduate degree in another field. I've enjoyed reporting on stories that highlight the challenges and triumphs of Twin Cities' students and educators during the past few years, and I want to thank the students and educators who welcomed me into their classrooms and homes. All the best.