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School Closings, Middle Schools Proposed In St. Paul

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By Esme Murphy, WCCO-TV and Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) – St. Paul Public Schools are planning some big changes including closings some schools, changing junior highs to middle schools and ending most citywide transportation in a money-saving plan released Tuesday.

The plan still needs to be approved by the St. Paul School Board. A vote is scheduled for March 15.

The changes will be phased in over the next three years. At the center of the plan is the community school model, with consistent curriculum throughout the district. The district will also discontinue most of its current citywide busing options.

Families will no longer be able to choose any school in the district and get busing. Busing will be restricted to neighborhood schools.

“It’s not efficient for us to bus a student from the Highland area when they are all the way on the east side,” said Superintendent Valeria Silva.

Nadine Franklin chose Ramsey Junior High for her daughter, but that’s across town.

“How are they going to get there, walk?” she said. “That would be a bad thing for her or for anyone that goes to that school.”

The proposal includes changes as soon as the next school year, including the closing of Four Seasons A+ Elementary and Open World Learning Community. Some sixth grade classes would start to move into junior highs next year as well.

The district said it faces at least a $20 million shortfall and said the state’s $6.2 billion shortfall could make matters worse.

“The way we’re doing business today, not all of our kids are being able to reach the high levels of standards,” said Silva. “So that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. Logically, budget comes to be a very, very important player in this because we need money in order to provide an education.”

Part of the plan also includes expanding the district’s program offerings, including adding a Mandarin Chinese-immersion kindergarten at Benjamin Mays Elementary and a new program for grades 6-8, which would be located at the current French immersion site.

Parents like Paul Duncan, who has kids that go to Highland Park Elementary and Junior High, are supportive of the plans.

“The superintendent has no choice,” he said. “She is making some very brave decisions that have to be made.”

Three buildings that were previously closed would also reopen including, Ames, Roosevelt and Sheridan.

A number of community meetings have been scheduled for the next month. More information can be found here.

WCCO-TV’s Esme Murphy Reports

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