St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva made some bold proposals today, including the closing of some elementary schools and ending city-wide busing for most students.
The multi-year plan, if approved by the school board, aims to improve student achievement and save the district money at a time when it faces a $20 million shortfall. The board will consider the changes at its March 15 meeting.
The St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce said it supports the proposed changes, saying Silva’s efforts are important because the workforce of the future will come from today’s K-12 students.
Chamber President Matt Kramer said: “Superintendent Silva’s plan is focused clearly on students, creates uniform standards and outcomes, and will best prepare our students for a competitive world economy.”
The busing change would divide the city into six areas and provide transportation for students only to schools in their home area, rather than throughout the district, as is done now.
Two elementary programs would close after this year: Four Seasons Elementary and the K-6 portion of Open World Learning Community. Sixteen magnet schools would no longer have city-wide busing.
Students could still attend any school in the district but might have to provide their own transportation if it’s outside their area.
Other proposed changes for next year:
- A Mandarin Chinese-immersion kindergarten would be added at Benjamin Mays Elementary, with a grade to be added each year;
- Creative Arts High School and grades 7-12 of Open World Learning Community would move to the former site of Wellstone Elementary;
- Both Ames/Sheridan and American Indian/World Cultures would add seventh grades, with eighth grades to come the next year;
- The sixth-grade classes at Adams Spanish-immersion and Highland Park Elementary would move to Highland Park Junior High.
Some proposed changes for 2012-13:
- A new K-5 program would move into the former Roosevelt Elementary;
- The former Sheridan Elementary would get a special-education program;
- The former Ames Elementary would take grades 3-5 of Nokomis Montessori, with Nokomis keeping K-2;
- L’Etoile du Nord French immersion school would move to the former Open World Learning Community building, and a new program serving grades 6-8 would move into the French immersion site
- Three of the six buildings that were closed last year with no future use specified would reopen: Ames and Roosevelt as regular-education programs and Sheridan as a special-education site.
School district officials said in a statement that some goals for the changes are:
- The District will be stronger with additional students taking advantage of what SPPS has to offer.
- Proficiency rates of students increasing to at least 75 percent in state-mandated reading and math exams.
- Revenue will be generated though increased enrollment.
- Facilities and resources will be used more efficiently, reopening some spaces that had been vacated in recent years.