MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis Public Schools was once the largest school district in Minnesota. However, they were eclipsed by the Anoka-Hennepin School District some years ago.
Now, that trend is reversing. For the first time in the new millennium, the big city district is growing.
In 2000, Minneapolis was educating 48,689 students. By 2010, that number had dropped to just 33,418. The district adjusted by closing some schools and changing the configuration in others.
However, using census figures, the district estimates that there will be a 2,000-2,500 student increase by 2015. As a result, the available space in Minneapolis schools will get a failing grade unless a solution is found.
"One of the challenges that we have is we do have some closed buildings in the district, but they are not always where the students are," said Courtney Kiernat, Minneapolis Schools Special Projects. "We are looking at enrollment as a district, but we have to look at different strategies that will be able to address the enrollment increases in certain parts of the city because we have different resources in different parts of the city."
Kiernat said some plans include reopening the closed Folwell Middle School on 20th Avenue South as a grade school. The closed Howe Elementary on 38th Street South might reopen to serve a new generation of youngsters. The areas around Lakes Harriet and Nokomis are seeing increases in enrollment. Kiernat said a "design and build" change might work there with existing schools.
"It is almost like a game of dominos or chess. Every move has an impact on other parts of the city," Kiernat added.
District officials believe the enrollment spike is due to demographics and families choosing to stay in Minneapolis. "Maybe because of our parks, our lakes, our schools and it might be in big part because of the economy and families cannot sell their homes," said Kiernat.
Kiernat is serving in a key role as a special projects worker in the district. "We need to be looking at things and working with the community collaboratively to find solutions," she said.
To keep parents involved and get their input, the district has scheduled 10 public meetings in the first two weeks of October at various locations around the city. Parents of schools directly affected will get fliers about the changes, while all the meetings are listed on the district website.
It is, one might say, a delicious problem for a once shrinking school district.
"What is exciting is we have not been in this situation for awhile. Families are excited that their neighbors are choosing to attend Minneapolis Public Schools," said Kiernat.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)