Minneapolis school board members handed down a death sentence for Cityview School on Tuesday night, closing the school and paving the way for a charter academy to attempt to do what the district couldn't: educate its most needy, vulnerable students.
The Minneapolis School District spent more than $19 million to open Cityview in 1999, but throughout the school's short life, students struggled and efforts to boost academic performance came up short.
The performance and the threat of sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act left the district few options but to shutter Cityview and start anew, Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson told parents and teachers.
"The actions we've taken at Cityview haven't been enough," she said during Tuesday night's school board meeting. "Now we must take stronger action."
Board members Tom Madden, Chris Stewart, Lydia Lee and Theatrice 'T' Williams supported Johnson's recommendation to close Cityview, 3350 N. 4th St., with Carla Bates, Jill Davis and Peggy Flanagan dissenting.
Cityview is the sixth district school to be shut down on Minneapolis' North Side in the past three years. Some board members and residents argued that previous closures created a ripple effect that reverberated throughout the district, spurring abandonment of north Minneapolis and creating crowded classrooms in other portions of the city.
"We need connections and stability," Davis told her colleagues and the crowd. "How is this going to impact our district as a whole?"
The school board listened to comments and concerns from more than 20 parents and employees as they prepared to decide Cityview's fate. Many people voiced displeasure with Johnson's plan to open a charter school, the Minnesota School of Science, at the site next fall for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Cityview families also have the option to attend the state's first self-governed school, Pierre Bottineau, next fall. Minneapolis teachers will run Pierre Bottineau, which will open to kindergarten and first-grade students next year at the former Jordan Park Elementary School site.
Plans call for Cityview's middle-school students to be allowed stay at the school and phase out over the next three years. Some parents questioned the options available to students who remain.
Minneapolis faced severe penalties for Cityview's failure to meet standards under the No Child Left Behind Act because of substandard test scores. The district's options were reconstituting the school as a charter, getting rid of the entire staff or shutting down the building completely.
"I am convinced that this difficult choice is the right one," Johnson said. "I'm sorry for the pain and disruption this is causing."
Board members who supported Johnson's decision considered opening a charter the most tolerable of three inadequate options.
"We are between a rock and a hard place," Davis said. "We are going to continue to be faced with some really tough decisions."
Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491