Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Wilson Redux

About a month ago, the staff I work with was informed of the impending demise of our Junior High program. The 10 schools Minneapolis wanted to close dwarfed the news.

Since then, Minneapolis has rescinded their threat, and is doing a full district evaluation, which will undoubtedly propose cuts the following year. The difference, is that NOW the decision will be based on best available information, and community input.

St. Paul, on the other hand, just provides lips service. All they talk about is how sorry they are, how unfortunate it is, and there is nothing we can do. The claimed here is no where else to cut.

And then this:

Members of the St. Paul school board on Tuesday considered a plan to expand bus service across the city for its 20 neighborhood schools, in effect making it possible for parents to choose a school for their children regardless of where they live.

The plan, sure to draw fire at a time when the school district has had to wrestle with shrinking budgets and dropping enrollments, has a preliminary estimate of $3.2 million to $3.4 million, said Kent Pekel, St. Paul schools executive director of strategic planning and implementation.

So 6 weeks ago, they WERE in a budget pickle, and had to go as far as close my school to save $500,000. NOW they are proposing a 3+++ Million-dollar expansion of the biggest money sucker in the district, Transportation.

For those of you who read my "Open Letter to the School Board" (You may have to scroll down), you'll see I went beyond typical liberal whining. I proposed solutions, reasonable and effective solutions:

Every school has their own busses, and if a neighborhood has students attending each of the schools of choice, that many busses will be driving down the street of that neighborhood.
How can we save money here;

1) Preserving Neighborhood schools: If more students were attending schools closer to their home, less busses. The Hamline/Midway community may now have another couple buses driving through our residential streets to transport our neighborhood kids to another community.

2) Hub System: A hub system could be developed that would significantly reduce the number of busses on the road. We could consider having Arlington and Central, for example, be designated transportation hubs. Each neighborhood would have only one bus driving through it, picking up students to bring them to the hub locations. At the hub, these same busses would now have a school designation, and student would transfer to the necessary bus to get them to their final destination. Sure, there are a multitude of logistical things to consider, but I can imagine the opposition to Magnet schools when the Transportation piece was being discussed and evaluated.

3) Regional Choice: Currently, there are 5 area Superintendents. Areas A, B, and C include the traditional schools that encompass the school district. Choice can still be provided, but the choices could be limited to the schools within your Area, be at A, B, or C. This would build community, limit transportation miles, and undoubtedly save money.

The School Board, however, seems to be heading in the opposite direction with no hope for Wilson in sight! This clearly leads me to believe the decision to close Wilson has nothing to do with money. However, that is the easiest excuse to feed the populace, and hope they have a short attention span.

This isn't over yet!


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