Date  
Title Hide Details 
Questions about A-HConnect

Question: Why do some (secondary) teachers post gradebook information and some do not? (from May 2006)

Response:  The roll-out of A-HConnect to parents and staff is a progressive process. We started with pilot programs for gradebook posting and now have been focusing on training and encouragement. Next school year all secondary teachers will use A-HConnect to post gradebook information. How often a teacher will post gradebook information through A-HConnect will vary depending on the course. Some courses may have very few assignments, and a culminating project at the end of the term or marking period, so the frequency of gradebook posting in those courses will be different from a course which has graded assignments on a frequent basis. Teachers will communicate with parents the frequency of posting for each course.

Naturally, with a big change like this it will take additional time and training to get everyone using the system effectively. The goal, however, is to have every secondary teacher posting gradebook information through A-HConnect at the start of next school year. Elementary teachers communicate with families in ways other than electronic posting, such as weekly folders.

Questions about alternative, transitional and special needs programs

Question: Does the Anoka-Hennepin School District have any programs available for middle and high school aged children who don't do well in traditional school settings? (from December 2006) 

Response: The Anoka-Hennepin School District has alternative programs available for middle and high school aged children who do not have any defined special needs and who aren't doing well in traditional schools. The district also has a transitional program for students in grades five through 12 which is designed to enchance students' academic progress during a transitional period caused by an event, action or series of behaviors. Listed below are brief descriptions of these sites. For more information on a particular site, go to the district's home page (www.anoka.k12.mn.us), click on Visit Our Schools and then click on Special Programs.

ALTERNATIVE PROGRAMS

Crossroads Alternative High School
(located in Coon Rapids): The purpose of Crossroads Alternative High School is to facilitate non-traditional learners in a respectful environment where students strive to do their best and develop skills that will lead to life long learning and success. Night classes and other locations are available at Crossroads North Campus. Crossroads West Campus located in Champlin, (formerly known as Champlin Plaza Alternative School).
located Coon Rapids, (formerly known as Andover Downtown Center Alternative Program and University Creek Alternative Program), and

TRANSITIONAL PROGRAMS
Compass Programs
(located at Coon Rapids, Blaine and Anoka): Compass Programs serve students in transition for the Anoka-Hennepin School district. Our programs consist of the following sites: Alexandra House Shelter, Anthony Louis Chemical Treatment Center, Teen Pregnancy/Parent Program, Homebound Tutor Program, Teleteaching and Compass Programs at Northdale Center for students grades five through 12 who have exhibited behaviors that have altered their learning pathway.

Compass at Northdale Center is the largest site for these programs, consisting of the following programs: Mid-Level Program, Compass Online, the District Modified Learning Center and the Special Education 45-Day Placement.

All these programs are designed to maintain or enhance students' academic progress during a transitional period. The ultimate goal is to help students successfully transition back to their neighborhood school or to an alternative program.


Question:
Does the Anoka-Hennepin School District have any programs available for middle and high school aged children who have special needs? (from December 2006)

Response:  The Anoka-Hennepin School District has several programs available for middle and high school aged children with special needs, in addition to the special education programs and services available in the schools. Students with special needs also have opportunities at the high school level through the district Career and Technical Education Department. Listed below are brief descriptions of these sites and programs. For more information on a particular site, go to the district's home page (www.anoka.k12.mn.us), click on Schools and then click on Special Programs.

ABC Junior Achievement
(located in Andover): Junior Achievement is a work-based learning site for high school students with special needs. Junior Achievement teaches the basics of manufacturing and sales to students. This environment allows for active student involvement in planning, decision-making and goal setting as students work on the production of items for the on-site gift shop.

Bell Center EBD Program
(located in Coon Rapids): Bell Center is a full day special education setting IV program for students K-12, administered and staffed by Anoka-Hennepin. All students have a disability, have a current Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and have significant emotional/behavioral needs. Students are referred to Bell Center by their neighborhood school. The decision to move a student to Bell Center is made by the student's IEP team after behavioral interventions at the neighborhood school or center-based program have proven unsuccessful. Bell Center promotes learning, growth, change and educational success in a safe learning environment. Creativity, unique learning styles, individuality and fun are valued and embraced. Emphasis is placed on open communication and mutual respect. These shared beliefs lead to empowerment, effective problem-solving and inner strength.

Bridges Program
(located in Andover): Bridges is a secondary special education program designed for students with moderate to severe disabilities who are between the ages of 18 and 21. Bridges programming offers functional and vocational curriculum with the instructional focus on the acquisition of skills necessary for increased independence within the community.

Transition Plus (located in Anoka): The Transition Plus program is a secondary special education program designed for students with disabilities who are between the ages of 18 and 21, and who are not yet ready for graduation. The Transition Plus program offers functional and vocational curriculum with instructional focus on the acquisition of skills necessary for independence within the community.

Work Experience Program: The Work Experience Program is available at Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Champlin Park and Coon Rapids high schools for grade 10, 11 and 12 students. Through this program, students can enroll in a work experience program in which they work at a community site under the guidance of a teacher, coordinator or job coach, if necessary. (Refer to your high school registration guide or guidance counselor for more information)

Introduction to Careers courses: Available at Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) in Anoka. A wide variety of course options for grade 11 and 12 students to explore careers in different career areas. (Refer to your high school registration guide or guidance counselor for more information)




Questions about animals in classrooms

Question: Why are animals no longer allowed in our schools when they are allowed in schools in other districts? An elementary school in another district allows a dog in school to help students read. I applaud that teacher and district for using any form to get kids to read. When my kids were in school (not that long ago), they took care of the class hamsters. It was a responsibility that they loved to do. (from January 2007) 

Response: In 1998, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board appointed a task force including parents, teachers, principals, nurses and building and grounds staff to examine the issue of indoor air quality and impacts various issues were having on student health and performance. One of the areas of concern they identified was the increasing allergic reactions students and staff were having to animals. Consequently, the School Board adopted a variety of policies, including one that reduced the number of animals introduced into the classrooms to just those instances that had an educational purpose. Currently, the district has an animal variance form that once verified, allows for animal presentations to occur. The director of administrative services said that this seems to have worked very well over the past eight years and allergic reaction complaints from students and staff have been greatly reduced. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends a no animals in the classroom policy for schools due to an increase in asthma.

Questions about boundary changes

Combined Questions and Rumors: My folks live in Coon Rapids and I live in Andover. Their neighbor heard from a teacher that the School Board is changing school boundaries for the 2009-2010 school year and has slated some schools for closing. The neighbor didn't know which schools were going to close. (from August 2008)

Our family is purchasing a home in Anoka-Hennepin and we've heard from several people that the area of Brooklyn Park (where we will live) is going to be turned over to the Osseo School District, specifically that Monroe Elementary School will be closed and students living south of highway 610 would be sent to Edinbrook Elementary School, Brooklyn Jr. High School and Park Center Sr. High School. Are the district boundaries between Anoka-Hennepin and Osseo under consideration for change?

Rumor: I have heard a rumor that L.O Jacob will be closing next year. Is that true or just a rumor, if it is true, when would the public here about it?

Response: The School Board has not discussed changing school attendance area boundaries within the district or closing specific schools. The School Board will begin a public discussion process this fall to consider issues related to declining enrollment. Changing school attendance area boundaries and closing schools may be discussed as part of that process.

There are no plans to discuss possible school district boundary changes with Osseo or any other school district.



Question:
Why is there a small part of Ham Lake that has their elementary children go to Andover Elementary School and then to Roosevelt Middle School and Blaine High School instead of Oak View Middle School and Andover High School? Will this ever change? (from April 2007)

Response: School boundaries are developed using a number of criteria. One of the most important of these is evenly distributing students in the space available. Because of variances in school size, it is not always possible to have all elementary students in a given school go the same middle and high school. When the school district makes boundary changes it attempts to keep students from the same school together as they move to the next level, but it is not always possible because of space availability. It is possible that boundaries may change as the population shifts, resulting from such things as new housing development with school age children. In recent years, however, attendance boundaries have been stable. The last time large changes were made is when new schools opened. At this time there are no plans to build more schools.


Question:
We recently heard parents talking about boundary changes for the 2006-07 school year. Is this true and will parents get to have input on the decision? (from April 2006)

Response: There are no current plans to change any school boundaries for existing neighborhoods. There has been some discussion about assigning undeveloped land that is being platted for development to specific schools, but there has been no discussion of changing boundaries for any existing neighborhoods. Historically, Anoka-Hennepin rarely redraws its secondary school boundaries. What usually prompts a change is the opening of a new middle school or high school. Other than that, they tend to remain the same. There is always an extensive process of public input during boundary changes, and those opportunities would be advertised in the newspaper, on the district website and by other methods. Again, there are no boundary changes currently under consideration anywhere in the district.

Questions about budget and spending

Question: Gov. Pawlenty's campaign ad states that we need to have 70 percent of the money from the state go to the classroom and not administration. How does the Anoka-Hennepin School District do with this? Are we near the 70 percent now? (from November 2006)

Response:
The Anoka-Hennepin School District is accountable for spending money where it matters the most: in the classroom. In the 2003-04 school year, 73 percent of Anoka-Hennepin's budget went toward the classroom, according to an analysis by the Minnesota Department of Education. Figures for the two most recent school years were not available from the Department of Education, however, according to budget figures audited by the firm Deloitte, Anoka-Hennepin put 74 percent of expenditures into student instruction in the 2004-05 school year. (Final, audited figures for the 2005-06 school year are not available yet.)

Anoka-Hennepin is an efficiency expert, according to Deloitte, spending less per student than other school districts. The Anoka-Hennepin School District spent $8,289 per student in 2005 - $500 less per student than the metro average of $8,788. Independent auditors hired by the School Board have repeatedly said Anoka-Hennepin provides above average programs at below average cost.

Anoka-Hennepin administrative costs remain among the lowest in Minnesota. According to SchoolMatters.com, an independent school analysis Web site run by Standard and Poors, Anoka-Hennepin's district administration costs for 2004 were in the bottom seventh percentile - meaning that 93 percent of all districts in Minnesota spent more on executive-level administration. In addition, its analysis indicated that district administration costs decreased by 4.1 percent from 2003 to 2004.

Questions about building new schools, additions

Question: When is the city of Ramsey going to get a middle school and high school? (from March 2006)

Response:
There are currently no plans to construct a new high school or middle school in Ramsey. District administration has been in contact with city officials and is monitoring the growth in population. In addition, the city has set aside some land for potential construction of a middle school at the city hall site on Nowthen Blvd. However, it is unlikely that anything will be constructed for some time because it requires the voters to pass a bond election to pay the costs for building and equipping any new building in the district.

While, clearly, there is expanding population in Ramsey, other parts of the district are stable or dropping in population, which offsets some of the new growth. We are currently able to accommodate the growth in our existing schools, although continued residential construction in Ham Lake, Blaine, Andover and Ramsey may change our thoughts on being able to house students in existing facilities.

We have 13 communities in our district and only five have high schools and only seven have middle schools, so we do not build schools in each community. These are very expensive buildings to construct and then there are on-going operational costs, so it is not a casual decision and requires clear analysis that it will be necessary both in the short and long-term. Currently, the many of types of housing being built in Ramsey are not ones that generate large numbers of students, but we will continue to watch it closely.

Questions about the district calendar, school year length and vacations (spring break)

Questions about the district calendar
Question:
When will the 2012-13 school year calendar be ready?

Response:
The calendar cannot be developed until the state has set test dates for next year, usually sometime in February. A committee that involves representation from parents, teachers and administrators then develops the calendar and submits it to the School Board.

After board approval, key dates are then announced on the home page of the district website and in the
Backpack Online e-newsletter. Electronic PDF copies of the different calendars are then created and typically available to download in the Calendars section of the district website sometime in late March or early April.


Question: I would like to know why the school district does not observe Columbus Day in October or Veteran's Day in November when other federal holidays are observed with days off from school. (from February 2008)

Response: The district does not observe all federal holidays because of other requirements and traditions, such as the need for teachers to have non-student contact days at the end of quarters so they can prepare grades, days for parent-teacher conferences, staff development, and winter and spring breaks. To observe more federal holidays than we do now would result in extending the school year further into the summer. Already school extends well into the second week of June. Some of our schools do special activities on these days to observe them. For example, veterans have been invited into our schools to be honored at student assemblies or to speak with students.



Questions about the length of the school year

Question: Why does school get out so late in June? I saw the key dates for next year's calendar, and was very disappointed to see the last day would be June 10. Why not start earlier, or have fewer days off during the year? I know my kids have a very difficult time getting excited for school once June comes.

I seem to remember that at some point, Minnesota thought it would be a good idea to start school after Labor Day, but I think it is time to change that. Kids are already in sports in August, and after having the summer break, are ready to start. I hope the trend of having school go well into June ends with this next school year. (from April 2007)

Response: The Anoka-Hennepin School District received feedback that the one week winter break we had this year was not long enough. The district's calendar committee decided to make winter break two weeks in the 2007-08 school year. This results in the school year ending later in June.

There is a balance that must be struck during the school year with the length of breaks and required days for staff training. If winter break is longer (a full two weeks, for example), school must go into the second week of June. Current state law requires that school start after Labor Day, so we are not able to begin earlier than that. When the school calendar is designed, it is recognized that it won't please everyone every year.

For example, some years winter break is shorter and we hear from parents and students who want more days off over the holiday. If spring break comes late in April, some people don't like that because it comes after the winter travel season. Next year happens to be a year that goes into June a bit more. It doesn't happen every year, but it does occur periodically.


Question:
Has there been discussion of adding more school days to the school calendar? Since the teachers do not attend seminars or workshops during their summer breaks and do during the school year, I was wondering if the school district will be adding more school days. Students in other countries spend more time in school than students in the United States. (from May 2006)

Response:
There are no current changes planned for the length of the school year. The minimum number of days required for schooling in Minnesota is set by the state Legislature. Without Legislative support, an increased number of school days in Anoka-Hennepin would mean additional costs without additional revenue to cover them. So it is unlikely Anoka-Hennepin would increase its school days on its own.

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) has put forth a proposal to add five weeks of school. This proposal was part of the organization's Legislative platform for 2006. In order for this to become a reality, the state Legislature would have to approve it. The matter did not go anywhere this Legislative session, however MASA may continue to press this issue in future years. There certainly is more talk at this time about lengthening the school year than at anytime in recent memory.

Many Anoka-Hennepin teachers do, in fact, attend seminars and workshops during the summer months, as well as during the school year. For example, more than 1,045 district teachers attended Anoka-Hennepin's K-12 Summer Institute for two-weeks last August at Blaine High School. In addition, many teachers seek out continuing education classes and programs during the summer months, when they have time to devote to them.



Questions about vacations (spring break)

Question:
How is the week of Spring Break decided? Most schools have their spring break in March, Anoka-Hennepin always has theirs in the beginning or middle of April. (from April 2006)

Response: In preparing the school calendar, the district tries to recognize the concerns of families while considering the district's overall educational mission. The needs of each Anoka-Hennepin family are different depending on the family. Vacations are important for some, but not for others. There is special difficulty in the spring when trying to find dates for spring break because of several district and state tests between February and April. We have to follow the state's testing calendar and the state usually leaves the week before Easter free from required tests.

While there might be a week somewhere apart from the week before Easter when we could fit in spring break, in recent years it has been easiest to use the week before Easter. Using these dates consistently has allowed families to plan vacations or other travel.

Questions about curriculum, courses, grades, etc.

Question: My step-son is in ninth grade. At his last conferences, we were told that an A+ is no longer given as a grade. Can you tell me why? (from March 2008)

Response: The issue of grading was discussed several years ago by our Advanced Learner Committee when they studied various issues related to grade point averages and weighted grades. It was felt that an A is already considered exceptional work, well above average or good, to add a plus wouldn't have real meaning. In addition, because an A earns students 4.0 points towards their grade point average, which is the most colleges accept for a single course, there would be no value to adding the +. It could not add a fraction of a point as it does with a B, C or D grade. (For example, a B is 3.0; a B+ is .3.33.).


Question: I heard that a lot of high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses that aren't rigorous or up to standard. Are the AP courses in our district legitimate? (from December 2007)

Response: Yes. Anoka-Hennepin offers 13 different Advanced Placement courses. They are all authorized by College Board, the national body that sets standards for AP classes.  You can check whether or not a school's AP courses are authorized by going to the AP Course Ledger on the College Board Web site at: https://apcourseaudit.epiconline.org/ledger/qsearch.php.


Question: Why does the district allow high school students to take college courses at public school expense? (from August 2007)

Response: The state instituted the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program a number of years ago that allows high school juniors and seniors to attend college. It is a state program, not a school district program. For many years, school districts have offered some advanced courses that give students not only high school credit, but also college credit. For example, a student who does well in Advanced Placement History may qualify for college credit depending on the college he or she chooses to attend. For the most part, these courses do not cost the public school system more; they require no additional teachers or materials. However, in some cases there is a cost to provide teacher training for high school teachers who teach college level courses. Governor Pawlenty has proposed a requirement that all high school students graduate with a full year of college credit in addition to their high school credits.



Question: There has been much discussion in the high school by parents about foreign languages. We had heard that a student must have two semesters of a foreign language to graduate and get into college. Is that true? (from May 2007)

Response: Students are not required to take a world language class to graduate from Anoka-Hennepin. The district's graduation requirements are passing scores on the Minnesota Basic Standards Tests (MBSTs) in math, reading, and writing; and completion of 28 course credits. World language classes count toward students' elective credits.

Completing a high school world language class is not an admission requirement for state technical and community colleges, as they have open admission, but Minnesota's four-year colleges and universities and most private colleges require at least two years of a single world language for admission.

Admission requirements will vary between schools, so students should contact the institution they are applying to for exact requirements.

For more information on Minnesota's four-year state colleges, visit: www.mnscu.edu. For more information on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, visit: www.umn.edu. For more information on Minnesota's private colleges, visit: www.mnprivatecolleges.com.



Question: I have heard that it is entirely up to the teacher as to the cut off dates for final grades for the quarter. I wonder if the students get credit for homework, etc. to be completed on the last day of the quarter. (from March 2006)

Response:
The cut off date for grades varies by grade level, course, the type of projects/assignments for the course, and whether it is a quarter or semester course. For example, a course in which one major project is completed (such as construction of a dresser in a wood technology course) may have different cut-off dates than a course with regular daily assignments, such as a mathematics course. Teachers have a responsibility to communicate to students their expectations for grading, including final deadlines.


Statement: All science teachers these days spend too much time on "environmental" science and they ignore the hard sciences. We shouldn't be teaching our kids to become tree-huggers. (from 2003)

The facts:
Anoka-Hennepin's science curriculum covers all aspects of scientific inquiry including research, experimentation and application of the scientific method. Areas of study are biology, ecology, chemistry and physics. No one area of science is emphasized over another. In high school, students with an aptitude for science can pursue advanced classes such as microbiology and organic chemistry.

The range of district's science curriculum is exemplified each year by student projects on display at the district's Science and Engineering Fair. The January event features between 400 and 600 projects that cover the gamut of science and engineering. Each year, students who participate in Anoka-Hennepin's science fair go on through regional and state competition to the International Science and Engineering Fair.

Questions about differences between school districts

Question: Could you help explain the disparity in our schools? I hear Wayzata School District is the best. I have heard this from several parents. If we look at homes in that area they are outrageous in price. If we all fund our school system, why is there such variety? A person living in Ramsey should be entitled to all the school programs that are available to a person living in Eagan or Lakeville or Minnetonka or any place. (from October 2006)

Response:
We do not have information that would make comparisons between Anoka-Hennepin Schools and Wayzata schools possible, however, we can tell you that differences between school districts result in part from differences in funding. This year the Wayzata district receives $1,406 per pupil unit in referendum revenue, which is the most allowed by state law. Voters in Wayzata have authorized the district to levy on local property taxes up to $1,571 per pupil unit if the legislature raises the referendum "cap."

In comparison, Anoka-Hennepin voters have approved a referendum levy of $695 per pupil unit, which is about half the amount allowed by law. If Anoka-Hennepin received as much referendum levy revenue as Wayzata, it would have an additional $33.4 million this year. ($1,406 minus $695 multiplied by 47,000 pupil units.) That additional revenue would allow the school district to lower class sizes and purchase more computers, textbooks, library books, etc.

Questions about dress codes

Question: Is there a dress code for employees of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, (particularly those employees that interact with students) as they are setting examples and considered to be role models for the children? (from February 2008)
 
Response: The district does not have an official dress code for staff. School staff are encouraged to dress professionally to set an example for students, who have to adhere to specific dress codes. At some schools, the published dress code pertains to students and staff. Staff who work in specific areas, such as physical education, may wear attire that is appropriate for physical activity. Staff in some departments, like building and grounds and child nutrition, wear uniforms that adhere to specific dress code requirements.

Other schools have "casual Fridays" in which casual professional wear or school-related clothing is permitted.
 
If a complaint is made about a staff member's dress, or a principal/supervisor perceives that a staff member's dress isn't professional, concerns are addressed with the individual staff member.

A video on appropriate attire, created by the Communications and Public Relations Department, is shown to new teachers at the district's annual new teacher's workshop to help promote professional dress. Some principals/supervisors also show the video to their staff at the beginning of the school year as a reminder.
 
When in doubt about what is appropriate, staff should look to their principal or supervisor.



Question: Does the district have a dress code? If so, how is it enforced? (from August 2006)

Response:
The district policy regarding attire is as follows: Student attire and/or personal grooming which creates a danger to health or safety; creates a disruption to the educational process, or violates common standards of decency as they apply to a community school setting, or and any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which by virtue of its color arrangement, trademark, or any other attribute (as a primary purpose) denotes memberships in an organized gang.

Some schools have their own attire policy, which is listed in the school's student handbook. Here is what one middle school's attire policy looks like: "It is our philosophy that good grooming and appropriate dress are directly related to good behavior and attitudes in school. We believe that careful selection of clothing is the obligation and responsibility of every student and we request that students refrain from wearing any attire which will distract from the normal classroom atmosphere.

"Students are expected to leave their head wear and jackets in their locker during the school day. Clothing should cover midriff, shoulders, backs and undergarments. Shorts and skirts should be of modest length. Clothing depicting the following is not allowed: alcohol, tobacco, other chemicals, 'double meanings,' sexually, morally, and religiously offensive graphics and slogans. We truly appreciate your cooperation."

Disciplinary actions, including phone calls to parents, dismissal or suspension, may be taken against a student who violates the attire policy. Typically, what would happen is that a teacher or assistant principal would notice something and ask the student to put on a jacket or sweatshirt, find a change of clothes if available or somehow modify the attire. When a student flagrantly or consistently violates the dress policy, that's when more serious discipline is introduced.

Questions about driver's education

Question: Does Anoka-Hennepin have a driver's education program? If so, what is offered and how much does it cost? (from April 2010)

Response:
The Anoka-Hennepin School District has one of the largest driver's education programs in the state and stands as a low-cost option for parents and students.

The district offers two driver's education classroom instruction courses: One course is taught during the school day and is a full-term course (approximately 68 hours) with elective credit. There is no fee for this class.

The other offering is taught after school and during the summer. This is a 38-hour course with a $60 fee, no elective credit is available. Both of the classroom instruction courses provide eight hours of interactive simulation. Behind the Wheel instruction is offered outside of the school day. It is an eight-hour course and the fee is $170.

We have found that our program is extremely effective. Through student surveys, we learned that only 19 percent of students completing Anoka-Hennepin's Driver's Education Program report that they were involved in a crash within one year of obtaining their license. While this may sound high, it is small in comparison with national studies that show 50 percent of new drivers are involved in a crash within one year of obtaining their license.

Information about the district's driver's education program is available at your child's school. Questions about the program can be directed to Pat Cochrane, program coordinator, at 763-506-7135 or at Pat.Cochrane@anoka.k12.mn.us.

Questions about early out tardy reporting

Question: Why do elementary schools have to report children who leave early? Does this time count against the school? (from April 2006)

Response: The Early Out reporting indicates early pick up of a student. It was implemented to reinforce the importance of students being in school for all of the available instructional time. Because students lose instructional time when they leave school early, an Early Out is viewed as having the same impact on students as a tardy at the beginning of the school day.

Questions about elementary recess

Question: How long has the district had such limited recess time in the elementary schools? Has there been any discussion of increasing the number of recesses in the school day? (from March 2006)

Response:
The district is developing a Wellness Policy as required by federal law this year, and the issue of recess is addressed in the policy draft. The policy does not focus on length of time students ought to be in recess, but rather on placement of recess in the school year, for example closer to lunch, and on building connections with community and family to support physical activity. Time during the school day is a precious commodity. When it comes to physical activity, children also have physical education classes in addition to recess. Many phy ed teachers have expanded their classes from the simple physical activities you and I did in school to teaching lifelong wellness. In addition to exercise, they may spend time discussing nutrition, simple anatomy (i.e. the stomach processes food) or how to live a healthy life.

(Comments from an elementary principal)

Students in grades one through five receive 60 minutes of physical activity each week in their Physical Education classes. In addition, each school has recess. Given the growing concern for our children's health and wellness, we all see the need for our children to be more physically active. As principals, we are trying to balance that need with the need to have all children meet state standards and federal benchmarks in math, science and reading. Our discussions have focused more on how to maximize the instructional time in the school day rather than on increasing recess time.

Questions about graduation ceremonies

Question: Why do some Anoka-Hennepin high schools hold their graduation ceremony at a place like Northrop Auditorium or Mariucci Arena when the other district high schools have theirs on school grounds? Is this an added expense? (from July 2010)

Response: The cost is about the same, according to Chuck Holden, director of administrative services. It costs approximately $8,000 for an on-site high school graduation. Most of the cost is in labor (transporting chairs and other equipment, custodial, sound system, extra staff, security/parking staff, etc.) and it's very comparable to the cost of having the ceremony off-site. In fact, many high schools across the state are choosing to go off-site for graduation ceremonies, said Holden.

Champlin Park decided several years ago to change their graduation ceremony venue to an off-site location after seven of their first nine graduation ceremonies were rained out. This year, Champlin Park, Andover and Coon Rapids high schools held their graduation ceremonies at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus (June 6 and 7).

To make it cost effective, Champlin Park shared the day (June 6) with Andover. The combined cost (including space rental and all related services) was approximately $16,000 for the three schools, or about $5,533.33 each, which is very comparable to on-site costs (Plans are in place to have the ceremonies for these three schools at the arena on the same day in 2011, which will cut the total cost down further and give an approximate savings of $5,000 to $6,000).

With the costs being comparable, principals make the call to have the ceremony at the school or off-campus. When graduation is held at the school site, principals are put in the difficult position of trying to decide if the weather will allow an outdoor ceremony or if it must be held indoors, where space is limited and fewer guests can attend.

If a principal decides that an outdoor ceremony is possible, but then stormy weather moves in more quickly than forecast, plans have to change at the last minute. This can make it difficult for families to know who will be able to attend because space is so limited inside the school. Some students have had grandparents or other relatives travel in from out of state to attend, only to be disappointed when rain limits the number of people who can attend.

Holding a ceremony off-campus in a rented venue may better serve the needs of a school's students and families in that it provides space for extended family to attend the ceremony. 

Questions about employee benefits

Out-of-pocket expenses: Anoka-Hennepin vs. Wisconsin (from February 2011)

Question: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposal for public employees to pay more toward their pensions and health insurance and to curtail their collective bargaining rights sparked days of protests. How do benefits for Anoka-Hennepin employees compare to the controversial proposal in Wisconsin?

Response: The answer may surprise you. On average, Anoka-Hennepin employees pay more as a percent of their salaries compared to the proposal that Gov. Walker seeks to impose on Wisconsin public employees. Anoka-Hennepin has working agreements with 17 separate employee groups, so there are differences between each one.

Pensions: Anoka-Hennepin employees pay 46 to 50 percent of the contribution toward a pension. The other half is paid by the district as required by state law. Employees who are not teachers contribute 7.25 percent of their annual salary. Teachers belong to a separate pension group and pay 6 percent of their salary. Those rates will increase until 2014 when all district employees will contribute 7.5 percent of their salary as required by state law The Wisconsin governor's proposal is that all public employees pay 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pension.

Health insurance: Employees who choose family coverage pay up to 42 percent of their annual premium. This will vary depending on the employee group, for example a teacher who has family coverage pays 38 percent of his or her premium. Currently, 35 percent of employees purchase family health insurance. Anoka-Hennepin employees with single coverage do not have a contribution to their premium, but they pay co-pays and other costs as defined in the health plan. The Wisconsin governor's proposal is that public employees pay 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums.

 Anoka-Hennepin does not provide a contribution towards health insurance to retired employees, however state law requires that the district allow retired employees to remain on the district's plan at their own expense. This decision was made many years ago and it has drastically reduced Anoka-Hennepin's long-term liabilities.

Figures cited for the Wisconsin proposal come from the Wisconsin Office of Governor: www.wisgov.state.wi.us.

Do you have a question for the Anoka-Hennepin School District? Submit it to the Communications and Public Relations Department here.  

Questions about school/student photos

Question: Why did we change from Lifetouch to Herff Jones for school and class photos? Is there any discussion of changing back? (from June 2007)

Response:
State law requires school districts and other government entities to bid out contracts and to award the lowest responsible bidder. Herff Jones was selected to provide our school photography because they bid the lowest prices and have a national reputation for quality and service. Many school districts in the metro area employ Herff Jones for school pictures.

A committee comprised of principal representatives from each school level and a member of the district's purchasing department reviewed the proposals from each company that responded to the bid. That committee determined that the photo packages that were bid from Herff Jones were $3 less per package than those bid from Lifetouch and the other companies. The committee contacted other school districts that currently receive services from Herff Jones for additional information about their quality and service and received positive feedback. The committee also reviewed photographs provided by Herff Jones and discussed their own personal experience with the company. Herff Jones provides a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Based on this study, the committee decided that Herff Jones was capable of providing good service, and a quality product at a lower cost.

The district has a two-year contract with Herff Jones with an option to renew. At this time, the district is not considering a change. The district can cancel any contract at any time if the company does not perform to the contract specifications.

Questions about holiday celebrations in schools

Question: I am wondering if there is a district-wide policy regarding celebration of holidays at school, or if it is up to schools to decide on an individual basis. Take Halloween for example. At my son's school, students are not allowed to wear costumes. I have heard that other elementary schools have a parade for younger grades where wholesome costumes (i.e., no scary masks, weapons, etc.) can be worn. (from January 2007)

Response:
The district does not have a policy on the celebration of holidays in schools. It is left up to individual schools to make the decision. Schools have different climates and traditions that need to be considered when making a decision to celebrate a holiday. They also seek input from school staff and parents.

Regarding Halloween, it is likely that schools in the Anoka area may choose to celebrate Halloween or participate in Halloween related activites, as the city of Anoka is the "Halloween Capital of the World" and sponsors such events as the annual Halloween parade.

Questions about levies (past and present)

Questions about the November 2009 levy:

Question: If the levy is passed this fall, we won't need to worry about boundaries being changed. Is that correct? (from October 2009) 

Response: School boundaries will change regardless of the levy passing or failing, due to school closings. The School Board is closing several schools next year in response to declining enrollment. If the levy doesn't pass, the district may close one or two additional schools.

The district will need to reduce expenditures by $8 million if the levy does not pass. In addition, the district is managing an $18 million deficit for next year that is due to no state funding increase for this school year and next. These cuts will come on top of nearly $16 million cut for the current school year.


Question:
I understand the estimated $2 per month increase for the average homeowner will actually be $2 per more each of the eight years so it would end up being $16 a month. Is this true or false? (from October 2009) 
 
Response: False. The amount of tax on a $200,000 home will be approximately $2 per month next year. The tax will be adjusted each year of the levy to compensate for inflation. The rate of adjustment is determined by the state. The Minnesota Department of Finance estimates that the $2 will increase to $2.34 per month the final year of the levy in 2017. The state relies on the work of IHS Global Insight, one of the two or three most respected economic forecasting firms in the world, to help with its financial projections. The firm uses a complex econometric model that relies on a vast set of data points going back to 1959 in generating its forecasts.



Question:
Didn't we just approve a levy? How come you are back for more? (from October 2009)

Response: Yes, voters approved a five-year referendum levy in 2007. The district currently has two referendum levies in place.

The 2007 levy was a renewal of a $562 per student levy originally approved in 2002, plus an additional $422 per student and an adjustment for inflation each year. That levy now provides $993 per student.

This year the district is asking citizens to vote on renewing an expiring levy originally approved in 1999 that currently provides approximately $132 per student plus an inflation adjustment of $33 per student.


Question:
How much will the new levy cost? (from October 2009)

Response: Since the referendum levy on the ballot this fall is a renewal with just a small additional amount to compensate for inflation, the added tax is small. The additional cost will be $2.14 per month for a home valued at $200,000, which is the average home value according to a recent check with county assessors.

For levy-related information, visit: www.anoka.k12.mn.us/levy2009.


Questions about the November 2007 levy:  

  • Click here to view the Question and Answer sections for the 2007 levy. 
  • Click here to read rumors about the 2007 levy.

Question: We, as families in this district wonder why, when we are so short on space, are we letting families from outside this district open enroll their kids in our schools? We are not talking about specialty schools (like Fred Moore Middle School Center for the Arts, for example), but regular schools like Rum River Elementary School and Oak View Middle School. If we are so over crowded and need funding again, it seems to us that we should stick to our own enrollment. (from May 2007)

Response:
For many years, the Anoka-Hennepin School District was closed to open enrollment because of space issues in our schools. In fact, more students leave our district than enter through open enrollment, in part because many of our schools had been closed to open enrollment. The district revised its enrollment policy two years ago to be compliant with Minnesota law, which states that school districts allow a minimum of 1 percent per grade level of non-resident enrollment.

This means that by law, students living outside of Anoka-Hennepin can apply to attend one of our schools through open enrollment. However, submitting an application does not guarantee enrollment in the school requested. Open enrollment is a commitment to another school district, not necessarily the choice of school in the district. A student may be placed in another school if their first choice is full, or denied altogether if there isn't space.

Applications are approved provided that space is available under the cap set by the School Board (which is 1 percent) and class size limits have not been reached. A random lottery process is used to determine enrollment for eligible applicants when the number of applicants exceeds the maximum spaces available. Open enrollment is not a factor in overcrowding.

The need for another levy is not the result of overcrowded schools. In fact, the district's enrollment is declining slightly. The referendum levy is needed because the current levy, which was approved by voters in 2002, will expire at the end of the next school year, leaving an immediate $25 million budget gap beginning with the 2008-09 school year. The money from the referendum levy pays for the educational programming all students receive - teacher salaries, textbooks, heating and lights, and more. Renewing the $25 million has a neutral impact on property taxes because it would continue an existing levy. Open enrollment is not a factor in the need for renewal of the levy.
   

 

Questions about MAP tests

Question: I was wondering why it takes so long to get back the results of the MAP testing. I would think we'd want to address issues with children falling behind as soon as possible instead of waiting so long. (from August 2006)

Response:
The MAP report for parents is mailed out with report cards because it is more cost-effective than sending a separate first-class mailing for the 30,000 students who take this test in our district. While the report for parents takes a while to receive, scores are available right away. Students take the MAP test on a computer and are able to view their score immediately following their test. Teachers receive the test results the next day so they can plan to teach accordingly to student's skill levels. This allows for any issues to be addressed right away. Parents may call their child's teacher a few days following the test to find out their child's score, if needed.

Questions about myspace.com

Question: I am wondering if students have access to myspace.com at school? Are any of the parent organizations discussing this phenomenon and how to let parents truly know what is going on? (from October 2006)

Response:
Students do not have access to sites like myspace.com or other websites that allow individuals to display a personal page on district computers, as these sites are identified as sites that may violate the United States Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and/or the Anoka-Hennepin Policy for Acceptable Use of Network Resources.

Here are some suggestions for parents in talking to their children about their safety on the Internet:

  • Talk to your child about the potential dangers of listing personal information online, such as cell number and addresses.
  • Remind your child that anyone in the world can view his/her myspace site, not just friends.
  • Visit myspace.com to become familiar with the site and your child's individual page. For more suggestions on keeping your child safe online, go to: www.WiredSafety.org or www.Safekids.com.

Last May, Anoka-Hennepin's Parent Involvement Department, along with the Anoka County Sheriff's office, presented a class on cyber safety to help parents learn more about safety on the Internet and dealing with such sites as myspace.com. Parent Involvement is considering offering the class again sometime next year. Backpack Online will announce the details of the class, when available. Click here for the latest Parent Involvement class offerings. Click here to download the district's Policy for Acceptable Use of Network Resources.

Questions about online payment system

Question: Has the district looked at a way so that lunch money, fees and field trips could be paid by credit card? Could it be connected somehow to AHConnect, like we pay for Community Ed classes? (from September 2006)

*Response:
At this time, we do not have an online payment system available for lunch accounts or fees. However, this is something that the district is looking into for the near future. For now, activity fees can be paid by credit card through our five high schools. Lunch account payments can be mailed directly to your child's school.

*Online payments and enhanced services were introduced to Anoka-Hennepin in April 2009.
Questions about 'everything' enrollment
Questions about parking fees and lots

Question: Where do the fees that high school students pay for parking go? When doing the math it seems to add up to quite a lot of money. (from April 2007)

Response:
Fees that students pay for parking are used to cover the cost of parking lot security, administering the parking permit issuance system and some of the parking lot maintenance costs. Parking fees do not generate any additional money for school operations, and they don't fully cover the cost of all maintenance. The district pays for snow removal, seal coating and any other costs not covered by fees.


Statement: The district wastes money replacing perfectly good parking lots. (from 2003)  

Response:
Anoka-Hennepin does not replace good parking lots. The district has a program of patching and resurfacing with pea rock and tar that keeps most lots in serviceable shape. When it is no longer cost effective to use this approach, the surface is ground off and a new layer is put on top of the existing base.

 

Questions about school honor rolls

Question: Why don't all middle schools and high schools post the honor roll names in the paper? (from June 2006)

Response: Most of our secondary schools submit honor rolls to the local newspapers. It is up to the newspapers to decide if and when to print honor rolls. Sometimes they have more space available for honor rolls than at other times. The amount of space is dependent on the amount of advertising for a particular issue. Some of the newspapers cover more schools than others and may not have space for all schools all the time. The large number of names on a list can be a deciding factor as to whether a school list is printed or not.

There are some schools that do not submit honor roll names to local newspapers, for various reasons. Instead, these schools do a variety of things to recognize students, including: publishing honor rolls in quarterly parent newsletters/school newsletters, sending letters home to parents of honor roll students and even posting student names on a wall (at school). Some schools prefer to honor students in these ways because they feel it is more personal and has a greater impact on students and their families.

Questions about school supply lists

Question: Why do the supply lists vary so much from school to school? Some schools hardly have a list and some have really long lists. (from September 2006)

Response:
In Anoka-Hennepin, schools develop their own school supply lists. Because of this, lists can vary from school to school. In preparing this answer, Backpack Online asked elementary and middle school principals to share how their school develops its school supply list. Most of the schools that responded say that teachers at each grade level develop the supply lists. Some schools have teachers work in teams within the grade and some schools have teachers submit lists individually and combine those lists at each grade level.

In some cases, a school's list may look different from another because of the different electives it offers. For example, Fred Moore Middle School Center for the Arts offers different arts electives than other district middle schools. Schools that have special programs may have a different set of requirements.

Lists also vary if a school has received supply donations from a local business/group, community members or parents, etc. or on how a teacher plans to deliver curriculum. Since each teacher is different, he or she might ask students to purchase items that another teacher doesn't.

Questions about school swimming pools

Question: I heard that the Coon Rapids Middle School and Oak View Middle School pools are still full of water and being maintained even though they're closed. I heard that it is because it's too expensive to drain them and let them sit empty. (from December 2006)

Response:
Some district swimming pools were closed as part of budget cuts the school board made in spring of 2002 when it approved the budget for the 2002-03 school year. A multi-question referendum levy proposal that went to voters in fall of 2002 included a question asking voters if they favored an additional tax levy to reduce co-curricular activity fees and reopen swimming pools. Voters did not approve that funding. At this point, the reason for the pool closing remains; funds are not available to reopen those pools for use at this time. It is unlikely that the pools will be re-opened unless state funding returns to earlier levels or voters pass a referendum to fund the operations.

The pools are being maintained in a manner that will allow the district to open them at some time in the future. Water must remain in the pools for several reasons. The motors that pump water would likely deteriorate and seals would fail if they were not periodically run with water in them. Additionally, the structure of the pool is somewhat dependent on having water in it to hold the sides in place. The tile and pool materials would also deteriorate if they did not have water to keep them moist.

If we are directed to reopen the pools, it will be less expensive to get them in operating condition because they have been maintained this way than it would be if they had been drained.

Questions about staff planning days

Question: Why are we spending money to rent spaces outside of district buildings for staff development? (from October 2013)

Response: The school district offers many types of professional development during the year and the majority of those sessions are held in district buildings, including our Staff Development Center at the Educational Service Center, the Sandburg Education Center, and classrooms and meeting spaces in our school buildings.

However, when planning professional development it is necessary to consider the setting in which the goals of the professional development will best be met. With groups of 35 or more participants, or when there are large numbers of presenters, it's more cost effective, and more productive, to hold these sessions in spaces outside district buildings.

Questions about student athletics and activities

Question: Why is it so expensive to attend a sporting event at the High Schools? Has the district ever thought of lowering the price to boost attendance? Is there any sort of pass you can buy to attend multiple games through out a season or school year? I have talked to many people who would love to attend the games but think it is too expensive. (from November 2006)

Response:
Admission costs are determined by the Anoka-Hennepin School Board and are charged in order to help support the cost of co-curricular activities provided by the district at the secondary schools.

Currently, the admission cost for an athletic event is $6 for adults and $4 for students/senior citizens. Football games are $7 for adults and $5 for students/senior citizens. These prices are the same at each Anoka-Hennepin high school. Admission costs were actually reduced in the 2003-04 school year, decreasing from $8 for adults and $6 for students/senior citizens to the current cost. When compared to other conference schools and surrounding districts, Anoka-Hennepin's athletic admission costs are less, with the exception of football, which is the same as other schools.

According to district analysis of high school co-curricular activities, attendance counts for athletic events that charge an admission fee is steadily increasing. The 2002-03 school year had 73,533 in attendance, the 2003-04 school year had 84,669 in attendance and the 2004-05 school year had 94,612 in attendance. These figures include students and adults.

Anoka-Hennepin offers discount punch cards for students and adults at the following rates: $70 punch card for adults ($100 value), $20 punch card for students ($40 value) and $20 punch card for senior citizens, 65 years of age and older. Punch cards are transferable, but expire at the end of each school year. Punch cards can be used at all five district high schools and can be purchased at your child's high school activities office.


Question: We've heard that high schools may move some of the girls' athletics offered in the fall to winter or spring. Would it ever be possible to switch some fall sports statewide? It seems like here are a lot of choices in the fall for girls, but not much during the other two seasons. (from September 2006)

Response:
Currently, there aren't any formal discussions taking place but from time to time, discussions about moving seasons do arise. These discussions are mostly centered around space and facility issues. The trouble with moving any of the activities offered is that you end up creating as many conflicts as you hope to solve.

According to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), it is not possible to switch seasons unless the MSHSL Board voted to do so. If our school district wanted to bring this issue forward, one of our activity directors would have to formally write to the MSHSL Board of Directors.

There is some balance to the programs that currently exist in the district. For example: high schools offer four athletic activities for girls in the fall (not including cheer and dance), five in the winter (not including cheer and dance) and three in the spring, with a possibility that lacrosse will be added in the future.

Questions about student lunches (Child Nutrition Program)

Question: There is so much waste when it comes to school lunches. Why are the portions given to kindergartners the same size portions given to fifth graders? Couldn't money be saved by dishing out more appropriate servings and letting kids get more if needed? (from January 2008)

Response: Streamlining the portion sizes helps to keep the costs of school lunch as low as possible, said Allison Bradford, director of Child Nutrition. Having multiple sizes would make standardizing the nutritional analysis difficult in the K-5 programs. Students don't always come in order by grade to lunch, and smaller hamburger patties, buns, etc. often cost as much or more as larger ones. Adding to that is the complexity of stocking multiple sizes of some items.

"It would cost more money to stock multiple sizes of some items," said Bradford. "What we're doing now is most efficient for the district."



Question: My husband recently had a lunch date with our sons, who are in kindergarten and first grade. He noticed that neither of them took any fruit or vegetables. Are elementary children not required to eat a well-balanced lunch if purchased through the lunch program? Parents are paying for the fruits and vegetables as a combined meal price. If students do not take part of what is offered, are parents still charged for the food that their child did not take? (from November 2007)
 
Response: School menus are planned to allow students several choices within each food category, while still maintaining the nutritional integrity of the meals (known as the "offer versus serve" provision).  
 
Under the "offer versus serve" provision, students must be offered the minimum required four food items at breakfast and five food items at lunch in the required amounts, but have the options of selecting a minimum of two items at breakfast and three items at lunch. Combination foods can be selected and can count as more than one food item. All meals that meet the guidelines are priced as a unit, regardless of whether or not all required items are chosen.

When students are allowed to select the foods they intend to eat, there is less food waste, increased customer satisfaction, they learn to make healthy choices and, most importantly, students eat more food and get the proper nutrients they need to grow and maintain a healthy mind and body.
 
Anoka-Hennepin's Child Nutrition staff encourage students to try "taste portions" of new or unfamiliar foods, rather than turn them down completely.
 
The "offer versus serve" notification is published annually in the September menu. Additional nutritional information can be found on the Child Nutrition Web site at: www.anoka.k12.mn.us/cnp.



Question: What constitutes an official lunch at the secondary level versus an incomplete or non-qualifying lunch in which students are charged a-la-carte (a more expensive way to go). Do students have to take two fruits or vegetables? One of each? Do they have to take milk? What are the rules to avoid "a la carte" charges? (from May 2007)

Response:
The federal regulation states that while the district must offer all parts of a meal, students do not have to take anything. However, students must take at least three parts to get the meal price. Otherwise it is considered ala carte. 

Some foods, like pizza, spaghetti, lasagna and sandwiches are combination foods and can count more than once toward the three required parts. For example, spaghetti with sauce and meatballs is three parts by itself: grain, vegetable (sauce) and meat and would be charged at $1.95. Adding two fruit or vegetable servings, a dinner roll and a milk would also be charged at $1.95.

Secondary menus feature information on how to put together a reimbursable $1.95 meal called "Build-a-Meal Deal." This information is posted in every school and on printed menus. Click here for more information.


Question:
Why are adults charged twice as much as children for school lunches when both are given the same amount of food? (from March 2007)

Response:
The Anoka-Hennepin School District is reimbursed by the federal and state governments for student meals. Adult meals are not reimbursed, thus adults are charged more for their food. Currently, adult meals are $3.25 for a full meal that includes the secondary student portion of the main entrée, vegetables, fruits, bread, milk and condiments. Secondary students are charged $1.95 for the same meal due to federal and state reimbursements. Elementary students are charged $1.80 for essentially the same meal, with slightly smaller portions. The district strives to keep meal prices cost-effective, high quality and nutritious in order to support the health and learning environment.


Question: I have two children, one is in middle school and one is in high school. Both have complained that they don't have enough time to eat lunch because the lines are so long for the main course. When my sixth grader got his lunch, he couldn't find a place to eat and when it finally all came together he had to go to get to class on time. My high school student doesn't have the same problem with the seating, but eats the sandwich or small salad because of the long main food line. Can more lines be added or are we doing something wrong? (from October 2006)

Response:
Sometimes lunch lines are longer due to the popularity of certain menu items. When this happens, Anoka-Hennepin child nutrition staff try to place the more popular entrées in multiple lines for increased line speed. The first few weeks of school tend to be more chaotic with new students trying to figure out how the lunch lines work and to find their way. Child nutrition staff say that this is usually smoothed out within the first few days/weeks.

Over-crowded lunch shifts and lunchrooms can be a problem in schools. Sometimes lunch shifts are not balanced correctly and need adjusting. This is usually done by school administration during the first few weeks of school.


Statement: "Run the school lunch program as a separate business! Can't you increase school lunch prices so the program supports itself?" (from 2003)

Response: The school breakfast/lunch program is its own $15 million business. Anoka-Hennepin's budget includes a separate fund for "Food Service." That fund contains the revenues and expenditures for the school breakfast/lunch program. According to the 2002-03 budget, 74 percent of revenues for the food service fund come from local sales (i.e. breakfast and lunch money), another 25 percent comes from federal and state revenue and 1 percent comes from revenue generated through interest. Salaries and benefits for food service employees make up about half of expenditures and supplies make up about the other half of expenses. About 8 percent goes for purchased services and other expenses. No General Fund (K-12 education) dollars are spent on food service."

Questions about student transportation

Question: Why does the district provide a "Cadillac" level of transportation service for special education students and those in programs for expelled students? (from January 2008)

Response: Less than a third of special education students receive special transportation; most ride a regular school bus or walk to school. The specific type of transportation service provided for a special education student is determined by the student's Individual Education Plan team to meet the specific needs of the student. The state and federal governments require school districts to provide transportation service for students with disabilities (MN Statute 125A.03 subd.a) and the same statute requires the district to provide for students who are expelled from school. Transportation for students that require transportation due to a disability is not optional and it does not follow the same limitations that regulate regular student transportation (transportation must be provided for students living two miles or more from school). The definition of disabilities is set at the federal level in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and is not determined by individual school districts in Minnesota or by any state.


Question: The other day I took my son to Blaine High School and I saw three buses with only one to two students riding them. How can we justify paying a driver and gas for the bus if only two students ride it?
(from January 2008)

Response: Anoka-Hennepin's transportation department typically routes busses to have about 50 students. However, there are some circumstances in which there are fewer students on a particular route. For example, there are some large special needs buses with wheelchair lifts that service Blaine High School. These buses may not have many students on board, due to the low number of students who require a wheelchair lift. There are also some cases where students are transported to Blaine High School and then shuttled to non-public schools. Buses may have only a few students at certain points during this process.

Blaine High School is also a specialty school in the North West Suburban Integration School District (NWSISD). NWSISD is a collaborative effort of seven school districts formed to meet the requirements of the Minnesota Desegregation Rule. NWSISD provides transportation for students who attend a NWSISD specialty school in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Blaine High School may have busses coming from other school districts with low numbers of students. 


Question: Why don't parents of kindergarten students have the option of purchasing bus service? (from June 2006)

Response:
The district has always required that students living within one mile of school walk to school. The change in the transportation program four years ago moved the boundary for families eligible for free transportation from one mile from school to two miles. Students within this one-to two-mile area have the option to purchase bus service. State law requires that school districts transport all students who live two miles or more from school. Prior to 2002, Anoka-Hennepin provided a level of free transportation service that was greater than what the state required.

Optional transportation for all kindergarten students has not been offered because we would not be able to limit this option to kindergartners only; it would have to be offered to all students K-12. In addition, this option would be extremely expensive. Our current transportation program is very efficient in that it maximizes the use of all the buses we lease. A single bus drives two or three routes each morning and afternoon, usually two elementary routes and middle or high school route. Adding buses without any assurance that they will be filled, means those buses would be expensive to operate. In turn, this would drive up the fees for all who purchase bus service. Our transportation department estimates it would cost kindergarten parents at least seven times current fees for each additional school bus, plus an additional three times the cost for students in grade one through five. We have always encouraged parents of new kindergarteners to communicate with parents of older students in their neighborhoods and form walk groups.

Questions about Target's Take Charge of Education Program

Question: What does the district or individual schools do with the money that they get from Target's Take Charge of Education Program? (from March 2007)

Response:
Target's Take Charge of Education® program is intended to benefit K-12 schools located in the U.S. having a 501(c)(3) or 509(a)(1) tax-exempt status. According to Target's Web site, it will donate 1 percent of an individual's purchases at Target and Target.com and one-half percent of purchases made elsewhere on their Target Visa to the K-12 school of their choice.

Target distributes the accumulated donations to schools in March and September. Schools can use the unrestricted funds for playgrounds, books, etc. In Anoka-Hennepin, schools use the funds for a variety of things. Here are examples of what some schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District do with their Take Charge of Education funds:

  • purchase library books
  • purchase technology equipment, like digital cameras, computers, printers, scanners, projectors, etc.)
  • fund assemblies, field trips, lyceums and retreats for students
  • provide funding for students who are otherwise unable to afford field trips, etc.

Questions about the superintendent

Question: I read in the newspaper that the former Minneapolis school superintendent used her $700 monthly car allowance to lease a Cadillac SUV. What kind of car does Anoka-Hennepin's superintendent lease with his car allowance?

Response:
The Anoka-Hennepin superintendent does not have a car allowance as part of his compensation package. He drives his own car, purchased with his own money.

Questions about weather and closing school

The Communications and Public Relations Department has received many questions for Backpack Online e-newsletter's "Question of the Week" feature (and in general) throughout the years on the general topic of snow days and how the decision to close school is made. Listed below are the most commonly asked questions and rumors. This information was last updated on Feb. 3, 2011.  

Click here to view the winter weather and school closing podcast episode, featuring special guest Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

Where can I get information on school closings due to weather?
To get information regarding school closings or delayed start times, you should monitor school and district websites, and pay attention to TV and radio news reports. The district will post any general information about school closings/delayed start times on the front page of the website (check with individual schools on the status of specific activities).

The district also releases this information to TV stations (WCCO, KSTP, FOX 9, KARE, Northwest Community TV) and WCCO radio. Click here to view the WCCO School Closing website. You may also call the district office at 763-506-1000.


How cold does it have to be to close school?

The safety of all our students is our first priority when determining if it is safe for schools to stay open in very cold weather. In making this decision, we use the National Weather Service wind chill chart,
which uses a combination of air temperature and wind speed to determine the length of time a person may safely be outside. Click here to view or download chart.

The goal is to be within the wind chill range where students can be outside for 30 minutes without risk of frostbite. This should give students time to walk to school or wait for the bus safely. By dressing children properly, parents/guardians can protect against the effects of cold weather. 

Why don't you close school when it is really cold and windy?
Even when it's very cold and windy, typically businesses and government offices remain open, and most school districts in Minnesota, including all those in the metro area, remain open.
 
The decision to close school is a serious one, and it affects many working families who would have to take a day off of work or find day care on short notice. Some families do not have these options and their children may be left home alone. Often, children are more at risk when we close school. As the largest school district in Minnesota, with more than 240,000 residents and approximately 40,500 students, many families and businesses are affected when Anoka-Hennepin closes its schools.
 
Extremely cold weather is not unheard of in Minnesota. Many times it gets very cold in the state while school still is in session. By dressing children properly, parents/guardians can protect against the effects of cold weather.

What if I am concerned about the weather and school is in session?
In case of very serious winter weather, parents/guardians have the final decision on whether or not to send their children to school. If school is open, students are expected to attend. However, if parents/guardians they feel their children would be in danger they can choose to keep them home. The absence will be excused if the parent/guardian calls to report it prior to the start of school. If the school is not contacted, the student will not receive an excused absence. Students who are already in school will not be excused if they choose to go home.  

How do I determine if school bus service is operating when we have had severe weather?
District transportation staff members drive roads and check with bus company staff, local city and county public works staff between 4 and 5 a.m. to determine if streets are open and buses can get through. We also check weather forecasts and consult with other school districts who may be experiencing the same or similar weather.
 
When we have snowstorms and similar winter weather, the roads are slippery. It does take us a little longer to get through routes; however, we plan as much as possible to be on time.

In a district of our size, more than 170 square miles, it would be difficult for us to maintain a site to track conditions across the district. Parents should assume that unless school is called off, our school buses are running.

I heard that Anoka-Hennepin prides itself on never closing for weather related problems. Is this true?
No.
Typically, when Anoka-Hennepin has closed school, the conditions were snow and ice - conditions that kept buses from running. In 1994, then-Gov. Arne Carlson ordered schools closed due to extreme wind chill temperatures.
 

Anoka-Hennepin closed in the fall of 2005 following a large rainstorm that caused a number of power outages. In addition it has closed several times in recent years for snow or cold. For example, it closed on March 15, 2002 when approximately a foot of heavy snow fell overnight and through early morning hours,
and March 2, 2007 due to wind chill.
 
Tips on appropriate dress for cold weather:

  • Wear several layers, the layer of air between each piece of clothing acts as extra insulation
  • Wear clothing that insulates, shields and breathes. Wool and polypropylene are good insulators
  • Outer layers should be wind and waterproof
  • Wear wool socks and well-fitting waterproof boots
  • Wear a hat to prevent heat loss
  • In most cases, mittens are warmer than gloves
  • In extreme cold, cover all areas of exposed skin

Does the district lose money if school is closed?
No. The district does not lose state aid if school closes for weather or other emergencies. State revenue is based on the number of students enrolled in school, not on the number of days in school.
 
Will elementary students be allowed outside for recess when it is 25 below zero?

No. The guideline for keeping children inside for recess will be zero degrees or 10 degrees below zero wind chill. Accommodations for children with special medical needs can be made with the Health Services office; written documentation from a doctor will be required.
 
Are student crossing guards allowed out in cold weather?
Yes. School staff check student-crossing guards to ensure that they have warm and proper clothing to be out in cold weather.

Questions about cell phone/MP3 player use in schools

Question: Does Anoka-Hennepin have a district wide policy on use of cell phones and MP3 players in school?

Response: The Anoka-Hennepin School District currently does not have a district-wide policy on the use of cell phones and MP3 players in schools. It is left up to each school to decide what its policy is.

Schools are concerned about these devices because of the disruption they can cause as well as the potential they create for cheating on tests.

Schools varied slightly in their policies, but the majority do not allow electronic devices to be used during the school day for any reason. Some schools allow electronic devices to be used during lunch or breaks or at a teacher's discretion. Policies are posted in classrooms to help remind students.

Schools have similar policies when it comes to discipline for using electronic devices in class: The first time a student is found using a cell phone in class it is taken away by the teacher and the student picks it up after school. The second time, the parent must come to school and pick it up. In some schools, the parent and student sign a contract at the second incident. Beyond three or five times (depending on school), it may be considered insubordination and would be subject to discipline, including suspension.

Questions about materials in schools (during the last week school)

Question: Why are students not allowed to bring any paper into a school during the last few days of school? This does not seem like a good productive use of time. It would seem to me if we are talking about expanding the school year to encompass more days, having the last three days of the school year as productive days would help solve the problem. (from June 2008)

Response: Students are productive participating in academics and activities during the last few days of school, whether it's demonstrating knowledge learned throughout the year in final exams or engaging in the social aspect of school.

There are several reasons students are not allowed to bring paper to school:

  • Many schools reserve the final days of the year for testing and school field trips, so no paper is needed.
  • Schools already tend to be "knee-deep" in paper in the halls as students clean out lockers and notebooks. Some schools ask students not to bring paper in the last few days to reduce this.
  • Some schools do not allow students to bring in anything (like backpacks, that could conceal pranking items like stink bombs or weapons) the last few days, as the risk for contraband is high. Because of this, many schools have students clean out lockers the last week of school to prevent storage of items that could be considered disruptive.
  • In the past, bus companies have requested students not bring paper to school the last few days because students tend to leave it in the buses (causing extra clean up) or throw it out the windows.
  • Some schools do allow students to bring in notebooks the day before the school's field trip to tie up loose ends.

Many schools have an all-school field trip the last day of school. The rationale is that it is a celebration of students' hard work throughout the year. The agenda for the day is surrounding the social aspect of middle school (i.e., giving all our students a chance to interact with their peers by grade level). Also, this opportunity gives students a chance to meet some new students as they move to the next grade level.

Currently, there are no changes planned for the length of the school year. The minimum number of days required for schooling in Minnesota is set by the state Legislature. The Minnesota Association of School Administrators has proposed in the past to extend the school year by five or six weeks, but so far that is just a proposal.

Questions about class sizes, largest graduating class size

Questions about class sizes
Question:
My child's class is too large. If the district has a lot of empty classrooms, why not hire more teachers, reduce class size and use those classrooms rather than close schools? (from October 2009)

Response: Closing schools was necessary for two reasons, declining enrollment and the need to cut expenses. If the district had sufficient revenue, it would have been able to hire more teachers, reduce class size and use space that is now empty. Anoka-Hennepin has always been a low revenue district. If the district received average revenue per student for the metropolitan area it would have another $28 million each year. That would buy a lot of teachers.

Questions about the largest graduating class
Question: I have a son who's a freshman at Anoka High School and saw his graduating class (2010) totals 640 students! Is there a record of the largest graduating class in the district? (from February 2007)

Response: Based on information from the Minnesota Department of Education Data Center, the largest class in the Anoka-Hennepin School district between 1991 and 2006 was the 1992 class of Anoka High School with 806 graduates.

Data prior to the 1990-91 school year is currently not available from the state, but according to district records, the largest graduating class in Anoka-Hennepin's history was the 1988 class of Anoka High School, with 844 graduates. As far as we know, this is one of the largest ever recorded in the state of Minnesota.

Listed below are the schools that had the most graduates in the Anoka-Hennepin School District between 1991 and 2006:

  • 2005-06: Champlin Park High School, 596 graduates
  • 2004-05: Champlin Park High School, 581 graduates
  • 2003-04: Blaine High School, 598 graduates
  • 2002-03: Anoka High School, 649 graduates
  • 2001-02: Anoka High School, 577 graduates
  • 2000-01: Anoka High School, 582 graduates
  • 1999-00: Anoka High School, 610 graduates
  • 1998-99: Anoka High School, 615 graduates
  • 1997-98: Anoka High School, 587 graduates
  • 1996-97: Anoka High School, 616 graduates
  • 1995-96: Anoka High School, 555 graduates
  • 1994-95: Anoka High School, 534 graduates
  • 1993-94: Blaine High School, 563 graduates
  • 1992-93: Anoka High School, 632 graduates
  • 1991-92: Anoka High School, 806 graduates
  • 1990-91: Anoka High School, 757 graduates

Historically, Anoka High School had large graduating classes due to the fact that for many years it was the only high school in the district. From the year when the Anoka-Hennepin School District formed in 1952 until the opening of Coon Rapids High School in 1963, all students living in the district attended Anoka High School. Students were split between Anoka and Coon Rapids from 1963 to 1972, when Blaine High School opened.

Here is a list of which cities are included in high school attendance areas (some cities are served by more than one high school):

  • Anoka High School: Andover, Anoka, Burns Township, Coon Rapids, Oak Grove Township and Ramsey
  • Andover High School: Andover and Ham Lake
  • Blaine High School: Andover, Blaine, Coon Rapids, Ham Lake
  • Champlin Park High School: Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Champlin and Dayton
  • Coon Rapids High School: Coon Rapids and Fridley

 

Questions about closing schools, leased space

Question: When will the district move programs out of leased space? (from October 2009)

Response: When appropriate, the district plans to move some programs currently in leased space into district-owned facilities that will be vacant next summer when schools close. At this time district staff are reviewing uses of leased space to determine which programs are a good fit for the facilities that will become available. Staff will consider not only the suitability of the facilities for new uses and cost of potential renovations, but also the convenience of their location to make decisions that are cost effective and will serve the community well. Administration plans to bring recommendations to the School Board later this fall.