Plan to reorganize St. Paul schools is a work in progress
St. Paul Public Schools’ plan to dramatically reorganize will bring change to every school in the district, but exactly what those changes will be and how the schools will be affected is a chapter that will probably be edited a few times. When Superintendent Valeria Silva brought her proposal, called Strong Schools, Strong Communities, to the school board on March 15, she described it as a “framework” that would be adjusted over the next three years.
What is certain is that the district will divide the city into six attendance areas. Students will be bused to any school within their attendance area. Citywide busing will be provided only to students attending regional or district magnet schools.
The board unanimously approved the plan at its March 15 meeting.
Here’s what the reorganization means to students in the Como Park and St. Anthony Park neighborhoods, which are part of Area E:
· There will be five community elementary schools in the area: Chelsea Heights, Como Park, Galtier, Hancock-Hamline and St. Anthony Park. Those schools will enroll kindergarten through grade 5 beginning in the 2013-14 school year. Any child living in Area E can attend one of these schools; however, the district will establish attendance boundaries for each school to ensure that children who live close to the school will be guaranteed enrollment. Current attendance boundaries apply for the 2011–12 school year.
· The district’s sixth-graders will move into middle-school programs at existing junior high schools in the 2013–14 school year. Murray Junior High School will become the Area E middle school. Current fifth-graders at Adams Spanish Immersion School and Highland Park Elementary School will pilot the middle-school program this fall at Highland Park Middle School.
· Area E will have six regional magnet schools that children in the attendance area may attend; all of these will have a PreK–5 grade configuration. Those include Benjamin E. Mays Primary Years International Baccalaureate, J. J. Hill Montessori, Jackson Hmong Studies, Jackson Two-Way Hmong English Immersion, North End/Franklin Music and Wellstone Two-Way English Spanish Immersion.
· District-wide elementary magnet schools include Adams Spanish Immersion, American Indian (PreK–8), Barack and Michelle Obama Service Learning, Benjamin E. Mays Mandarin Immersion Program, Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented, Crossroads Montessori, Crossroads Science, Farnsworth Aerospace, Four Seasons A+ Arts, Le’Etoile du Nord French Immersion and Wellstone BioSMART. Any child in the district will be able to apply to attend these schools and will receive district transportation if they enroll.
· Como Park High School is the community school for Area E students and the regional magnet school for the Advanced Placement program. Central High School is the International Baccalaureate regional magnet school for the area, but students must be enrolled in the elementary IB program at Benjamin E. Mays and articulate up through Ramsey Junior High’s IB program to be guaranteed a spot in Central’s IB program.
Three SPPS high schools will offer IB programs: Highland Park Senior, Central and Harding. All SPPS high schools will offer Advanced Placement and College in the Schools courses beginning in 2013–14. Four high schools—Como Park, Johnson, Washington Secondary Technology and Humboldt—will offer regional magnet Advanced Placement programs.
District officials maintain that students will retain the option to enroll at any school in the district if there is room and if the family provides transportation to a school where the district does not provide busing. But Jackie Turner, SPPS executive director of family engagement and community partnerships, said children in Area E may not get into an IB program if they don’t begin in elementary school.
High schools will change
One of the hallmarks of this plan is to align curriculum across the district and, according to Silva, put “great schools in every corner of our district.”
That means programs at all high schools will change under the new plan, Turner said. “Central will change. All high schools will change to provide equity. Some programs will go away,” she said.
Although larger high schools are able to offer more programming than their smaller counterparts because per-pupil funding gives them a larger budget, “you won’t see schools with eight languages while some high schools have only two,” Turner said.
Old system no longer works
Silva contends that the district’s decades-old citywide magnet program is no longer viable. “We are still doing what we were doing 30 years ago,” Silva said. “We have a system that produces outstanding results in a few schools.”
To find out more about the plan go to www.spps.org/strong_schools.html. Click on the link “School Choices by area” and scroll down to Area E to find out what the school choice and school pathways are for students in this area.
Or call the district’s Student Placement Center at 651-632-3701 for more information.