Mill City High School, a downtown Minneapolis charter school, is shutting down only two weeks after opening.
John Miller, a school director, said Mill City did not come close to meeting its enrollment goals. The school’s budget anticipated 120 students. When Mill City opened, only about 40 showed up, dramatically cutting the amount of state aid the school could expect.
“You gotta have enough income from the state to make it work,” Miller said. “We would have had to cut virtually every position.”
Mill City was one of five charter schools authorized by the Minnesota Guild of Charter Schools, an offshoot of the Minneapolis teachers’ union. Guild officials could not be reached for comment, but Miller said the Guild’s role was to advise the school. It was up to the high school to recruit students.
Miller speculates that the school lost families because the first day of classes had to be postponed due to construction. The school was housed at First Covenant Church, which needed several renovations in order to meet requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Some families depend on [low-income] lunch programs,” Miller said. “We started three weeks after Minneapolis and that may affect their decision.”
The school had also recruited several Somali families, but they became concerned that the school was asking students to take Metro Transit buses to school.
Vivian Bjorklund enrolled her son Max in the school, despite warnings that the school might not make its enrollment numbers.
She said that once she saw the school open, she thought the situation was safe
“We were pretty surprised,” Bjorklund said. “Now we’re having to start over at a school that’s already been in session for almost a month.”
Her son is now enrolled in downtown’s FAIR school.
Miller said the school’s staff is working to make sure that students find a new school. He does not anticipate that Mill City will try to reopen.
“It’s not as simple as just restarting,” Miller said.