SPPS board vote on school closures passes

UPDATE: The St. Paul Public Schools board passed the plan 5-2

Wednesday, the St. Paul Public Schools board is expected to vote on a plan to close several schools and consolidate programs.

It’s a decision that’s caused controversy, and has changed, since first being introduced.

If this vote passes under the most recent plan from the school board, three schools would close, including Galtier Community Elementary School, Jackson Preparatory Elementary School, and John A. Johnson Elementary School.

L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion School would merge both of its campuses and Parkway Montessori and Community Middle School would become a Hmong and dual culture program.

Highwood Hills Elementary School, LEAP High School and Wellstone Elementary School would no longer close.

District officials say this plan would allow them to better use their resources but the feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly negative.

These changes are all part of St. Paul Public Schools’ "Envision SPPS" plan, which is being proposed as a way to address declining enrollment.

According to the district, there are more than 8,000 empty seats across St. Paul schools, making programs unsustainable.

District officials say re-locating students would help provide a more well-rounded education for all students, with specialists in the arts, sciences and gifted instruction.

"Where I want SPPS to get, certainly enrollment is critical, but we also have to stop and make some hard decisions at this time so that we can share with our community that these are the structures for a well-rounded education that you can count on," St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said.

"I just feel like the kids deserve something consistent, they deserve it, they love it, my son loves his school, he runs into the school building every day, his teachers are fantastic," Lianna Cotant shared.

Cotant lives close enough to walk to Galtier Elementary, one of the schools on the chopping block.

She says they chose the St. Paul school, and would be heartbroken to see it close.

"Moving him from his daycare here to pre-k when he was doing fine, but we thought he’ll be in the school for so long and it’ll be a familiar place for him and now that’s all in question and it makes me really sad," she said.

Troy Walker has a kindergartener at Galtier and says his son loves it.

"He likes school, he’s got little friends here, so I am hoping he doesn’t have to switch schools," Walker said.

Carl Thaddies shared another concern, he says he doesn’t want his kids to be forced into another difficult transition during a pandemic that continues to lingers.

"The school, clearly they accept greats, and my kids want to be great, so lets keep a great school open," he said.

The St. Paul Board of Education is scheduled to hold a special meeting beginning at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, during which a vote is expected.

It will be livestreamed but board members are not taking any public comment.