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Final enrollment revamp goes to school board

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • December 9, 2013 - 6:16 PM

A sweeping plan designed to handle booming enrollment in Minneapolis schools over the next five years goes before the school board for a vote Tuesday evening, meaning changes for almost a third of district students.

The plan arrives back at the board with two final changes from the revised version the board got last month:
• A competitive-entry elementary program for advanced students proposed for the Wilder building on Chicago Avenue has been dropped, but an undefined pre-kindergarden to fifth grade program would open there in 2015.
• A middle school in another portion of that building has also been scrapped in favor of expanding Sanford Middle School in 2016. The district previously backed off a shift opposed by some parents of middle-school Spanish immersion students from Anwatin Middle School to Wilder.

The proposal represents the biggest change since the district’s massive restructuring of attendance patterns in 2009, when it was still reacting to declining enrollment.

It’s designed to accommodate the 3,400 students the district projects it will add by 2017, and is aimed at creating some programs to attract students back from charter and other schools. Some of the changes respond to parent feedback in two rounds of community meetings held since the latest proposal was unveiled in September.

Some of those proposed changes include expanding the Spanish immersion program to a third elementary school at Sheridan (2015) and to Roosevelt High School, adding a second magnet at North High School (2015) focused on technical fields, possible later addition of an arts-technical program at Sanford and Roosevelt, and more early childhood programs.

The proposal affects about 10,500 students, although many won’t see much change. Fewer than 500 would shift buildings involuntarily, mainly the move of older special education students in the Transition Plus program to the district-owned former Brown Institute building at Hi-Lake (2015), and the move of a French immersion program to the Cityview building (2015). Some students will follow different paths from elementary through middle and high schools, such as the addition of Roosevelt for Spanish immersion students (2014). Most downtown-area students starting school will be routed to reopened Webster (2015) school and then Northeast Middle and Edison High schools, rather than heading to Southwest High School. Still others will see new or expanded programs in their buildings, such as the proposed fourfold increase in classrooms at Sullivan and Andersen (2014) for students new to the country who don’t speak English. Sanford’s new gym would allow existing gyms to be converted to classrooms.

Overall, the proposal adds 1,400 more seats than the anticipated enrollment, more than half of those in the district’s north and northeast zone. Some parents there has been unhappy about unclear pathways and programs in the proposal. Adding more seats represents an effort to meet the needs of students through a variety of academic approaches, said LeAnn Dow, the district’s project manager.

The proposal handles the biggest enrollment imbalance in the district’s southwest zone by expanding Southwest (450 students) for 2016, sharing of classes at adjacent Ramsey Middle and Washburn High schools (450) starting in 2015, shifting downtown students to northeast (300) and the new Wilder preK-5 school (450). The Wilder program will be defined with parents in the feeder area once that is defined, Dow said.

Major points in the proposal: Expansion of Southwest, Sanford, Seward Montessori (2016); reopening of Franklin Middle (2015), Cityview, Webster and an expanded Cooper school (2017); new early childhood programs at Wilder, Webster, North and Davis Center; eventual addition of arts-technical programs at Sanford and Roosevelt; addition of all-day kindergarten at five southwest schools without it; bus passes for students from outside Minneapolis willing to open enroll in 2014 to high-poverty schools; locating one of Harvest Prep’s sister charter schools at Lincoln building (2014).

The proposal defers to 2017 the idea of a college prep or audition-based arts high school, which some parents felt would weaken existing high school arts programs. A proposal to open a school that would help immigrant students through their college years was also deferred.

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