ST. PAUL, Minn (WCCO) — The St. Paul school board on Wednesday voted to close six of its schools, a move intended to address declining enrollment and long-term sustainability that sparked fierce pushback from a community unsettled by the proposal.
More than 2,000 students are impacted the decision, which represents about 6% of the district enrollment, according to figures from the district.
Galtier Elementary School, Jackson Preparatory Elementary School, John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary, L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion Lower, and Parkway Montessori and Community Middle School will close at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary will close at the end of next school year.
“At what point does a room full of upset, angry, sad, scared, worried people actually impact the way we think about this?” said a John A. Johnson teacher named David told the board on Tuesday night, ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Just because there’s a plan doesn’t mean it will work.”
Ultimately, three schools initially pitched for closure that drew sharp criticism — LEAP, Wellstone Elementary and Highwood Hills — were spared in a revised plan released early this week.
The resolution passed on a 5-2, but it wasn’t an easy vote for many members of the board who said they agonized over the decision.
Vice Chair Jim Vue at the last minute actually put forward a motion to override the resolution and not close any schools next year, but that failed.
They acknowledged the feelings of community members who asked that they reconsider, but ultimately the board approved it.
“The truth is, even though we don’t like to admit it, finances are not going to support the amount school that we have. Enrollment is not going to support the amount of schools we have in four to five years,” said board member Yusef Carrillo. “This vote, however, does not mean that this is the solution.”
The resolution authorizing the closure of schools said school-aged children who live in St. Paul and are enrolled in the district decreased from 67% in 2013 to 62% in the 2019 school year. More than 16,000 resident students are enrolled in other public school options.
All of the schools shuttered are under-used with fewer students, according to district data.
“This isn’t a promising plan. This plan doesn’t say as of September all schools are going to be OK. But what it does say is that we’re doing something drastically different,” said board member Chauntyll Allen.
Families will be notified Thursday of the changes and will get notices about enrolling elsewhere, the district said.