From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

Minnesota Transitions closes alternative program

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Charter schools Updated: March 27, 2014 - 8:31 PM

Minnesota Transitions Charter School announced Thursday that it will close its independent study  program that serves 166 students effective Friday after losing a state aid battle.

The school's board made the decision Wednesday night, Minnesota Transitions School Director Patty Brostrom said. She said the school hopes to absorb in its other programs most of the students in the affected alternative learning program. The program's closing will come at the end of the third quarter, the day before spring break begins.

Minnesota Transitions also operates K-12 classroom and online programs that serve almost 3,000 students. Those programs are not affected.

The students involved are seniors, of whom a majority are trying to make up credits toward graduation, Brostrom said. They typically do most of their classwork outside of the school, bringing assignments for teachers to review and grade, and taking unit tests.

Most of the seven full-time teachers for the program will lose their jobs, Brostrom said, but she hopes one or two could be absorbed by other Transitions programs.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals earlier this month ruled in favor of the state Department of Education that charter schools aren't eligible to operate alternative learning programs for struggling students, in an appeal brought by Minnesota Transitions.

According to the decision, the department approved Minnesota Transitions in 2002 as an alternative learning program in 2002, and funded that for the next 11 years.  But in 2011, the department began reviewing the alternative program's status, and it told the school in mid-2013 that it couldn't operate the alternative program.

Alternative programs for Minnesota students experiencing difficulty in traditional schools began in 1988. More than 162,000 students are in alternative programs or schools, according to the department, representing 17 percent of public school students.

The Minnesota Association of Charter Schools is expected to consider whether to seek legislative authorization in the 2015 session for the department to fund charter operation of such schools.

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