Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minneapolis School Board will begin considering a $40 million plan Tuesday night to move 4,000 students to different schools in the next few years.
The move comes after an unexpected boom in the number of school-age kids in the city. As many as 2,000 more kids are expected in the district by 2015. It means at least two closed schools will reopen and existing schools will be restructured to include different grades.
This summer, censusfigures showed Minneapolis is having a boom in the number of pre-school age children. The downturn in the housing market is one reason why, according to officials with Minneapolis Public Schools.
“People can’t sell their homes so they are not able to move out of the city when their kids reach school age,” said official Courtney Kiermat.
In a down economy, fewer families are choosing private or parochial schools. Another factor is that nearby school districts like St. Anthony, Wayzata and Edina have closed open enrollment so Minneapolis kids have to stay in city schools.
One of the biggest changes calls for reopening the Folwell Middle School building. Folwell closed in 2010. Students currently in the Ramsey Fine Arts Kindergarten through eighth grade program would be moved there.
Ramsey would then become a new middle school. Another change calls for reopening the Howe Elementary building. In two years, the school board wants to move all third through fifth graders from Hiawatha Elementary to Howe. Howe had been closed since 2005 and the district had been trying to sell the building.
The school district said it’s trying to take community input into account. Under the original proposal, Jefferson Elementary, which is now Kindergarten through eighth grade, would have been turned into Kindergarten through fifth grade.
When community members objected, the proposal was changed so that Jefferson will remain as a Kindergarten through eighth grade school.
The issue of moving students is always difficult, but for Minneapolis after so many years of losing kids, it is also an opportunity.
“It’s really exciting that we are dealing with this increase in K-8 students,” Kiernat said.