How students and families have responded to St. Paul's school closure plan

Computer classroom at LEAP
Keyboarding and computer skills teacher Sandy Lucas leads students in a computer coding lesson at St. Paul's LEAP, Limited English Achievement Program, High School in December 2013.
Amanda Snyder | MPR News 2013

The St. Paul School Board voted Wednesday night to close six schools in the district, with plans to eventually reopen four of them with changes. Officials there cited declining student enrollment as the main reason for the measure.

Students, families and staff at three other schools saved from closure had pushed back against the district’s plan at a variety of listening sessions and school board meetings.

Sarita Toledo is a student in her final year at LEAP High School, one of those three schools. Becky Dernbach is a reporter with Sahan Journal, and she has been covering this issue in the state’s second-largest school district.

LEAP is a small school that serves students new to the United States who are learning English. When Toledo heard that the district was considering closing LEAP, she felt “disappointed, upset and shocked.” She joined with other student leaders at the school to campaign against the closure because she feels the sense of community at LEAP is vital to their confidence and growth.

“LEAP being added to that list was a careless mistake, and I’m really grateful that the school board members were able to see that,” Toledo said.

Dernbach said that many of the students who have been leaving St. Paul Public Schools have been attracted to charter schools: Last year, 16,000 students whose home district was St. Paul did not attend a district school, and 13,000 attended a charter school instead.

To increase enrollment, St. Paul School Board members are focused on better serving the students they currently have in the hopes of retaining more students and attracting students back from other schools, Dernbach said.

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