St. Paul plans to close eight schools

  • Article by: GREGORY A. PATTERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2010 - 10:54 PM

Plan won't be approved by board until June.

A plan unveiled Tuesday by the St. Paul Public Schools administration would close eight schools and convert the district's newest high school into a middle school as part of a vast restructuring plan intended to bridge a $27.2 million budget shortfall next year.

The schools to be closed include Ames, Prosperity Heights, Sheridan and Franklin elementary schools, which are targeted to be closed for up to three years. Wellstone Elementary and Hazel Park Middle schools would be closed for only one year and the buildings reopened the following year with other programs. Most changes would take effect this fall.

The plan, announced at Tuesday's board meeting by Superintendent Valeria Silva, also would close the high school program at Arlington High School, but the facility would stay open as the new home of Washington Technology Middle School, which currently occupies an old building not far away.

The school closings would save $3.5 million. Silva's budget plan must be approved by the district's board, which also may order alterations. In sum, it cuts $31 million from a budget that is $27.2 million short of making revenues match expenditures. Final approval is slated for June 15, following several more board and community meetings.

"This is not the way I envisioned to start my superintendency of St. Paul Public Schools," said Silva, who became schools chief late last year.

Board members seemed resigned to the changes. "It's about excess capacity, and excess capacity costs money that we can't then use on students and programs," said board member Jean O'Connell.

Closing Arlington is projected to save over $900,000; more than a half-million of that total would come from savings of salaries of the principal, assistant principal and clerical staff. The district would save another $200,000 in transportation costs.

Arlington, one of the newest schools in the district, would be using only 35 percent of its capacity without the changes, Silva said. Only 90 freshmen have signed up to attend Arlington in the fall.

The four new grade schools planned for closing are moving their students into other schools. Ames students would move Vento Elementary; Prosperity Heights students to Hayden Heights; Sheridan students to Highwood Hills; Franklin students would move to North End; Hazel Park would move to Battle Creek; Wellstone would move to the Washington site.

Roosevelt and Longfellow Elementary schools, which were slated to close at the end of this school year, also would close under the new plan.

Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287

  • SAVING SCHOOL DOLLARS

    In addition to closing schools, St. Paul school officials recommended other cuts to help balance their budget:

    •Eliminate citywide busing for some magnet schools: $2.9 million.

    •Provide free bus service only to students who walk more than 2 miles to school: $1.3 million.

    •Discontinue music lessons for students in grades four through six: $900,000.

    •Eliminate all middle school athletics: $350,000.

    •Share principals between elementary schools: $700,000.

    •Change building temperature settings by 2 degrees: $400,000.

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