The St. Paul School District is considering closing some schools as enrollment is low. “School board members are listening to the most recent update on how to make schools more equitable in resources and programs,” FOX 9 reported.
The district says that there will not be enough students to fill classrooms, so in the interest of best utilizing resources, they are considering closing some elementary schools. This is not an issue isolated in St. Paul. In fact, schools statewide are experiencing losses of students. Federal data suggests that public school enrollment in Minnesota has gone down by over 17,000 students. Homeschooling rates have increased dramatically, along with a slight increase in private school enrollment.
While the St. Paul School District attributes the decline in enrollment to changing birth rates, other studies show that may not be the only reason. The Minnesota Department of Education data says that there has been a 50 percent increase in homeschooling within the last year, and it’s a trend that appears to be growing in popularity.
A parent of students in the St. Paul public school system told The Minnesota Sun that she pulled her students from the district last year to attend District 196 so that they could go to school in person.
She said, “The teachers union there was scared to go back to in-person [learning] and fought it for a long time.”
She believes that the low enrollment could also be attributed to that on a larger scale. She also touched on the violence and destruction the Twin Cities have been experiencing, saying, “Minneapolis and St. Paul are becoming a dumpster fire. You can’t just blame it on birth rates.”
She said that she will be keeping her kids in District 196 for now, but she is waiting to see what the schools will require regarding masks and vaccines.
Another parent, Jen Heerdt, who took her daughter out of the Mounds View School District to homeschool, shared in an interview with The Sun that she did so because of the mask mandate. Heerdt said that she knew of another family who did the same. She said that she loved homeschooling and is planning on doing so again if masks are still required.
St. Paul is using this shift to try to focus on more equally distributing resources and programs across their schools, which is an aspect of the district’s plan that was launched last year called Envision. Some of the long-term goals of the plan include “decrease[ing] disparities in achievement based on race, ethnicity, culture and identity” and “increase achievement of English Learners.”
Jackie Turner, the COO for St. Paul Public Schools said, “It’s not okay that some students and some children at certain schools get access to a large array of opportunities and activities such as art, music … and others don’t get those services at other schools.”
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Hayley Tschetter is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun | Star News Network and The College Fix. She graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. Send news tips to [email protected]