The following comments were submitted to Minnesota Public Radio through its Public Insight Network regarding the closing of Arlington High School and using the building to house students from other programs as part of a reorganization plan that would also close six school buildings.
The staff at Arlington understand the need to bring Washington into Arlington and close Arlington. We are against sending the 437 of next year's juniors and seniors to other high schools so Washington can have a clean slate. The students should be allowed to stay and graduate from this site. The district is telling everyone that the declining enrollment at Arlington is part of the reason Arlington was selected for closure when in fact Arlington was capped at 800 students while other high schools in the district were busting at the seams.
- William Pletzer, teacher at Arlington High School
I am concerned that what makes St. Paul Public Schools great -- choice -- will be adversely affected by the closings. I am also concerned that my kid's reasonable class size of about 24 will balloon and negatively impact his education. That said, I support Superintendent Silva in the closings. The system is a bit bloated. I cheered when she announced that she was going to cut high-paid administrative positions to help with the deficit--a decision that couldn't have been popular with her colleagues.
- Nell Kauls, parent
The loss of instrumental music in elementary schools effects everyone. When society puts the arts on a lower plane than reading/math/science, this erodes the meaning and beauty of life. My oldest child is a third grader and he takes cello lessons at school. This is the highlight of his week and he finds great joy in learning a string instrument. We are fortunate; we can afford to pay for private lessons for him. However, think of all the children that don't have this privilege.
- Cristine Snider, parent
I am an athlete; sports are my life. I play four sports in three seasons. One of the proposed cuts is sports. For some reason they don't see why sports are so important. Yet for me, they make everything better. I do better in school because of sports, and I also learn how to manage my time. I have no idea what I would do if they cut sports. Another cut that affects me is the closing of four pools. I am on both the swimming and the diving team and it is so much fun.
If they close certain pools we might not be able to practice or might not have enough teams to have meets with. I understand if they close some schools that don't have enough students, because those students could attend other schools.
- Laura Cefalu, student at Central High School
I think we have to trust those who have access to the detailed information of the impact of cuts. I agree that middle school physical education is absolutely necessary, but athletics programs at that age are not. Likewise, music is important, but traveling bands in middle school are not.
- Clare LaFond, parent of recent SPPS graduate
I understand that the proposed cuts will affect the itinerant instrumental music program throughout the district's elementary schools. My two children go to Highland Park Elementary, and the oldest plays trumpet in the school band -- something he really enjoys and will be disappointed to have to give up. The youngest has been looking forward to the chance to take up an instrument when he reaches 4th grade, and will be sad to learn that he won't have that opportunity.
I'm also very disappointed to think that we won't have sports in the middle school years. In an era when there is so much outcry about childhood obesity and lack of exercise, it seems foolish to cut out an opportunity to involve school children in physical activities.
- Maiya Willits, parent
Why are many of the elementary schools targeted all neighborhood schools, not magnet or citywide? This kills communities and increases transportation costs that are already too expensive. I was the last board member to serve that voted to build and open Arlington in 1996. At that time, we were close to our peak SPPS enrollment (45,000) in about 30 years and the school was near capacity in its early years. Much of our growth came from new immigration, a slight increase in local birth rates, and better fiscal times.
No one anticipated the struggles it would face academically or enrollment wise down the road. At the time, I believe it was an appropriate decision to build it and its proposed re-use probably makes sense as it is a nice facility.
- Tom Conlon, former School Board member
These cuts will of course affect all of these kids and families, but in addition the cuts will affect teachers and students all over the city as tenured teachers with experience will bump out non-tenured, hourly, and/or newly hired teachers. Every school could look really different next year. I really think they need to go back to the zone idea and put popular programs across the city like Montessori, Spanish & French immersion and etc. and stop bussing kids all over town.
We want community schools but many communities (like the Midway where I live) have magnet schools that are not serving students from the neighborhoods in which the schools are located. We'd save money on bussing, save on pollution and bring back a sense of community and ownership that is lacking!
- Krista Hanson, teacher and parent
I actually applaud the superintendent and the board for being bold. We must keep buildings full and not waste money on empty classrooms. We will probably still spend too much on transportation. Outside of the language magnets I don't think there is a real need to bus kids across town.
- Kenneth Chin-Purcell, parent
I do not have children that are effected by the proposed cuts and closures but I do live in the neighborhood of several of these schools. I believe this proposed decision will help to make our schools stronger and be able to provide our students a richer educational experience. So many of our schools offer only part-time physical education classes, little to no art curriculum, no music curriculum and part-time librarians.
Hopefully, by closing schools that are under utilized and moving programs, these classes I listed above will be strengthened and offered. Closing a school is never easy. You are removing a community - a comunity about and for people. But sometimes change is necessary to make a stronger and more efficient community. St. Paul children are great and being a parent, I believe children adapt more easily to change than us adults. This is not an easy decision for the School Board but it is a necessary one.
- Joann Ellis, parent