After a dramatic school board meeting Tuesday, October 12, Minneapolis Public Schools superintendent Bernadeia Johnson may be having second thoughts about her controversial proposal to phase out Minneapolis North High School in three years.
Johnson, who said that the decision to close a school is “one of the most difficult decisions a superintendent can make,” proposes that the school will close in three years, with this year’s freshman class of forty students to be the final class to graduate from the school, in 2014. Because of the school’s drastically falling enrollment numbers and low academic achievement, Johnson said that the school board can no longer justify keeping the school open for the 265 students that currently attend, compared to 1,100 students in 2004, a decline of 76% in just six years.
This decline could be due to programs offered by the school board, like the “Choice Is Yours,” in which Minneapolis students can choose to go to suburban schools like Hopkins or Edina and receive transportation. Contributing factors also include the many new charter schools in North Minneapolis and the appeal of other, more popular schools in the city. As part of the Changing School Options program adopted last year, North also lost its attendance area, so it is no longer the default school for students in the community.
Johnson maintained that the school board tried to help North by creating a citywide attendance zone (so all students in Minneapolis could attend and get transportation to the school), and offering International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in recent years. She also acknowledged that the school board waited too long to address academic achievement at the school, and wasn’t able to respond fast enough.
Immediately prior to the meeting Tuesday, North High supporters held a rally to support the school and its surrounding community. Many of the rally participants attended the dramatic meeting that followed, which was packed to the brim. The crowd was outspoken throughout, freely criticizing Johnson and her proposal during her statement at the meeting.
Unfortunately for Johnson, the crowd members weren’t the only ones criticizing her plan. Three of the school board members, Jill Davis, Theatice Williams and Peggy Flanagan, also requested that the vote on the proposal be postponed from its original date of November 9.
While the future of North High remains uncertain, Johnson emphasized the feeling of the entire room during her statement: “I have a heavy heart about this decision because I understand what this school has meant to this community.”