SAINT PAUL, Minn. — At a Saint Paul Public School Board meeting Monday night, the Board of Education reviewed a plan that could result in the closing and merging of multiple school buildings.
Through work with the Envision SPPS plan, the school district determined that having fewer school buildings open in Saint Paul would allow them to better allocate resources. More teachers can teach the core essentials of reading, writing and math, with a few specialist educators teaching science, art, social studies, world languages, accelerated learning, physical education and health.
The recommendations would begin in the 2022 school year, with changes to 10 school programs, including Bruce Vento Elementary, Cherokee Heights Montessori, Galtier Community School, Hamline Elementary School, J.J. Hill Montessori, L'Etoile du Nord French Immersion, Parkway Montessori Middle School, Phalen Lake Elementary School and Riverview West Side School of Excellence.
Five sites would be closed, including Highwood Hills Elementary, John A. Johnson Elementary, Wellstone Elementary, Jackson Elementary School and LEAP High School.
Obama Elementary would be temporarily closed for remodeling, and the Capitol Hill high school pathway would be changed.
According to the Envision SPPS plan, 2,949 students would be affected, around 9% of all kids in the district.
The following is what the Envision SPPS plan recommends:
L'Etoile du Nord French Immersion
- Relocate students from the lower to upper campus
Parkway Montessori Middle School
- Close Parkway and repurpose the building as a Hmong Dual Immersion program
Highwood Hills Elementary
- Close the school and send students to other local community schools or magnet options
- Engage the neighborhood for the best way to repurpose the building
John A. Johnson Elementary
- Close John A. Johnson and merge students with those attending Bruce Vento Elementary
- Design and building a "new" Bruce Vento
Cherokee Heights Montessori
- Combine with students at J.J. Hill Montessori
- The Cherokee Heights building will then house students from Riverview
Riverview West Side School of Excellence
- Close the school and move the student body to the building currently housing Riverview Community School, establish a stronger potential for growth
- Spanish Dual Immersion students would merge at Riverview West Side School of Excellence, and Biosmart students would be moved to district science magnets or nearby community schools
Galtier Community School
- Close the school and combine students with those at Hamline Elementary School
- The building would become an option for an Early Childhood hub
LEAP High School
- Close the school and send students to area high school language academies or other alternative programs
Jackson Elementary School
- Close the school and merge the Jackson Hmong Dual Language program with Phalen Lake Hmong Dual Language students
- Jackson Community School students would merge with the population at Maxfield Elementary
Obama Elementary School
- Close the school and send students to community schools or magnet options
- The building would reopen as a PreK-5 Montessori option and house students who had previously been at J.J. Hill and Cherokee Montessori schools
- A non-Montessori option for grades 6-8 would still be at this facility
Expanding Capitol Hill pathway
- 8th grade students would have a pathway to community high schools
- Language programs would be assessed for locations other than Highland Senior High School
The recommendations from Envision SPPS said larger schools offer more opportunities for enrichment during the school day, as opposed to after school. When field trips happen during the school day, more students can participate and group rates keep the cost down for everyone.
Based on information from the Office of Vital records, both Minnesota's birth rate and the number of children born in Saint Paul are declining, leading to lower enrollments. The district says it wants to act sooner, rather than later, to address these disparities before they become larger issue.
The plan shows that without these measures, SPPS enrollment will continue to decline.
Saint Paul Public Schools are holding public information sessions on Oct. 26 and Nov. 8 from 6-7:30 p.m.
Listening sessions are scheduled for Oct. 28 and Nov. 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
For more information on the proposed plan, visit the Envision SPPS website.