Parents react to SPPS plan that may close 5 schools

[anvplayer video=”5062861″ station=”998122″]

Facing declining enrollment, St. Paul Public Schools shared a school closure and consolidation plan with school board members and the public on Monday night.

John A. Johnson Elementary School is one of five schools that would close and become available for other programs, early childhood or community partnership centers if the school district’s recommendations are approved by the school board.

For Katie Schille and her two boys, who are in fourth and fifth grades at John A. Johnson, it’s hard.

"All the teachers here are awesome, my kids have bonds with their second-grade teachers and third-grade teachers," Schille said.

Nearby Parkway Middle School could be repurposed under the plan to become a Hmong Dual Immersion Middle School.

"That would be something new that we would have to explore to be able to tell, but in the meantime, I think it would be OK," parent Kou Thao, who currently has an eighth-grader at Parkway, said.

The district says its Envision SPPS plan impacts about 3,000 students or roughly 9% of the district enrollment. It says a third of the students impacted are Black, another 20% are Asian, 19% are Hispanic and 16% are white.

But some don’t believe the district’s recommendations are fair.

"We don’t believe they are, no, they are not equitable. Predominantly our schools with the brown and Black students in them are the ones being impacted," said Leah Van Dassor, president of the St. Paul Federation of Educators.

The school district says the recommended changes will allow every student to get a well-rounded education, focusing on the core subjects but also providing specialists for art, science, phy-ed and others, for everyone.

"This will come as a package, and we encourage the board to keep this in mind…. is the time now? Yes, the time is now," said Jackie Turner, the chief operations officer with SPPS.

"The only version that the board is hearing is the one the district is choosing to let them know about, so that’s been a frustration from our side," Van Dassor added.

For families, while it’s all unsettling, they are staying optimistic.

"Things happen and we deal with it and we move on, continue with what we have to go through, that’s what we do," Schille added.

There will be four listening sessions over the next month, both in-person and virtual. The public information sessions on Oct. 26 and Nov. 8 from 6-7:30 p.m. will be virtual sessions. The ones scheduled for Oct. 28 and Nov. 11 will be in-person listening sessions from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The school board is set to vote on this plan on Nov. 16.