By Marielle Mohs

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — St. Paul Public Schools is considering closing five schools due to falling enrollment.

School board members were briefed Monday on a proposal to close four elementary schools — Highwood Hills, John A. Johnson, Jackson, and Wellstone — as well as LEAP High School.

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“It is not a result of the pandemic, and not a major cost saving measure for the district,” Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard said at Monday’s meeting. “While it may create some efficiencies, at core, it’s about making all schools more sustainable.”

The changes would take effect in September 2022. Nearly 3,000 students could find themselves in different buildings.

These closures were brought up during Monday’s school board meeting by a group of about 120 St. Paul staff members and parents who call the plan Envision SPPS.

But the proposal is nothing new.

The district has been monitoring enrollment for several years and has seen a consistent decline each year. The district has invested money into the schools and recruitment to keep these schools afloat, but it’s not enough.

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This proposal promises that if these five schools close more money and resources can be given to existing schools to create more a well rounded curriculum, which includes hiring specialist teachers for core subjects as well as arts and sciences.

Wellstone Elementary parents WCCO-TV spoke to are worried about change.

“To lose the school is sad, it’s a community and there’s a loss there,” said Nicole Anouk Orvis, whose son is in pre-kindergarten. “And resources need to be used in the most effective way possible so I don’t know what the right answer is, but a sense of mourning is real as well, so that’s kind of where I’m at.”

“It’ll be bad to miss this school,” said Charles Mac, who has a daughter in third grade. “It’s so close to the home so we’ll have to find another school…I might just have to put her on the bus and she likes me driving her to school every day.”

At Wellstone, if the school closes, Spanish immersion students would move to Riverview Elementary, another Spanish immersion school. For 40% of the students who go here, Riverview will actually be a closer commute.

This proposal will be up for a vote at the board of education meeting on Nov. 16.

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Marielle Mohs