Critics Say St. Paul Public School Proposal Hurts Diverse Communities

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“Envision SPPS” would close, merge or relocate eleven schools by next fall. Opponents point out that most of the schools slated to close are in communities of color.

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Feven Gerezgiher reports:

A Saint Paul Public Schools proposal that would close several schools is facing resistance from community members who say the plan leaves behind Black, Latinx, and immigrant families.

School officials announced the proposal at a board meeting in October. Called “Envision SPPS,” it would close, merge or relocate eleven schools by next fall. Faced with 8000 empty seats across the district, officials say they want to consolidate resources to ensure sustainable and well-rounded education programs.

Opponents point out that most of the schools slated to close are in communities of color.

“This is an issue of unequal balance of power,” said parent Tseganesh Selameab. “If you see the schools that are being slated for closure, they're chronically under supported schools through SPPS.”

Selameab said she chose Wellstone Elementary for its proximity and diversity - and doesn’t want to see it close.

“They're really talking about taking a school that has a robust community and splitting it along language lines,” she said. “Like taking the Spanish speaking kids and sending them to the West Side and then the English speaking kids can get dispersed to other classes. It just feels like a very harsh splitting of a robust community that's integrated.”

Saint Paul Federation of Educators President Leah VanDassor said the move is disruptive to students after an already stressful and difficult pandemic year.

“Some of these places found out the day that the district announced it, that the school was closing,” said VanDassor. “I mean, this was a shock to a lot of people. There was a lot of harm done.”

According to officials, the proposal is meant to address competition from charter schools. However VanDassor said, depending on how the school board votes on November 16, families might end up leaving the district in the coming year.

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