Robbinsdale district to hold public meeting Jan. 13 Go to Facilities Study page
"We will keep our referendum promises to lower class size and restore some of the programs and activities that were cut over the last two years," said Superintendent Stan F. Mack. "We can sustain these restorations for a longer period of time by right-sizing our operation."
The four options that will be considered by the board propose closing different combinations of schools. The "Two Phases" option would close Pilgrim Lane and Lakeview Elementary Schools in 2009-10 and close a middle school in 2012-13. The "K-6" option moves 6th grade to elementary schools, closes Northport and Lakeview Elementary Schools and Robbinsdale Middle School in 2009-10. Most Northport and Lakeview students would move to the former Robbinsdale Middle School space alongside Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School (RSIS). The "K-5" option closes Pilgrim Lane and Sunny Hollow Elementary Schools and Sandburg Middle School in 2009-10. It also moves RSIS to Sunny Hollow. A "K-5" option variation would close Pilgrim Lane and Noble Elementary Schools and Sandburg Middle School in 2009-10. It moves RSIS to Sandburg.
The Wold team chose the K-5 option as its recommendation because:
- It is the most efficient as it achieves the highest percentage capacity of any of the options;
- It produces immediate savings in operations costs;
- Enrollment projections indicate the district will likely be right-sized for the next 10 years;
- It preserves and potentially enhances current education initiatives for all grades;
- It aligns four elementary schools and one middle school with each high school attendance area which aligns all schools to potentially offer International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement programming;
- It relocates the popular Spanish immersion program (which has a large waiting list each year) to a building where a decision to grow the program by one section at each grade level is possible.
"The other options don't deliver the same scale of benefits, and they don't support as efficient a delivery of educational initiatives," said Scott McQueen, project manager for Wold.
No matter which option is chosen by the school board, the popular International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) and the pre-Advanced Placement programs at the middle school level would be kept intact, and in some options would have an opportunity to expand.
"We understand that closing facilities is very hard for families, students, staff and community members," added Mack. "We wish there were other alternatives to closing buildings, but this painful process has been something we've needed to do every few years since the 1970s after our enrollment peaked."
Assumptions and criteria
The Wold team evaluated various options to solve the district's excess capacity problem using the following assumptions and criteria:
- Recommend creative solutions equal to the scale of the excess capacity problem
- Focus on options that save the most money or provide added value at the least expense
- Recommend buildings to be closed and sold
- Solutions must geographically balance schools across the district
- Solutions must preserve remodeled buildings and divest of unremodeled buildings when possible
- Close smaller schools before larger schools; smaller schools are less efficient to operate than larger schools
- Close schools with small attendance before those with larger attendance; schools with small attendance are less efficient than schools with larger attendance.
The public is invited to ask questions and provide input at a meeting Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 7 p.m. at Robbinsdale Cooper High School, 8230 47th Ave. N., New Hope.
The Wold team said in a mid-study report in December that the district currently has excess capacity of 1,450 students at the elementary level and 800 at the district's middle schools. According to demographer Hazel Reinhardt, the district's enrollment is expected to stabilize at the elementary level in the next few years, and will not see an increase in enrollment in the next 10 years. "The district is doing a good job of retaining students from year to year, but there are simply fewer children entering kindergarten each year primarily due to lower birthrates which will lead to a continuing decline in enrollment," she said.
Robbinsdale Area Schools' peak enrollment was 28,101 students in 1971. Since then, the school-aged population has declined, and the district's enrollment has dropped. In 2005-06, enrollment was 13,087. This year's enrollment is 12,349, a drop of nearly 750 students since 2005-06 when the district last closed a facility (New Hope Elementary). Since 1971, the district has continuously evaluated its facilities needs and closed facilities when necessary. In 1972, prior to the inception of the community education and special education programs, 31 buildings were open. Currently, 15 buildings are used as schools; five are used by community education, special education, administration and other programs; four have been leased to other organizations; and seven have been closed and sold.