The Anoka-Hennepin School Board took a second vote Nov. 23
on schools to close next year, but the result is the same as the first vote
taken Sept 28. Eight schools will close, but two of those will reopen
immediately for other programs.
Shortly after the board's first vote, a parent informed the
district that it had not followed state law in the closing process. The
district had not published a legal notice of the board's two public hearings on
proposed school closings in the district's legal newspapers for two weeks prior
to the decision. The district had, however, advertised the hearings early and
extensively in two documents mailed to all families in August and other ways
including automated phones calls to families. To comply fully with the law, the
district scheduled another public hearing and advertised it in all legal
newspapers as required and took a second vote on the closings.
The final hearing, held Nov. 18, attracted several dozen
community members. Most of those who testified objected to the board's plan to
close Riverview Specialty School for Math and Environmental Science in Brooklyn
Park. Some parents asked that closing of Riverview be delayed to allow time to
explore other options, including creation of a "site governed school" allowed
under a new state law.
details of the school closings approved by the board plus:
Early Childhood Center in Champlin and Peter Enich Kindergarten Center in Anoka
will close and students will attend kindergarten at their neighborhood schools.
These two schools were originally designed to reduce the enrollment crunch at
overcrowded elementary schools during years when the district was growing
rapidly. Park View will be used for elementary students from both Champlin
Elementary and Riverview Specialty School for Math and Environmental Science.
Peter Enich, which is located within the district's Learning
Center/Distribution Complex, will likely be used for other district purposes.
Elementary School in Anoka will close and its students will be moved to Crooked
Lake, Franklin, Lincoln and Wilson through a change in attendance boundaries.
The Washington facility will reopen next fall as a sixth-grade campus for
students from Sandburg Middle School and Fred Moore Middle School Center for
and Sorteberg elementary schools, both in Coon Rapids, will close. Attendance
boundaries in much of Coon Rapids will change and L.O. Jacob students will
attend Adams, Hamilton, Hoover and
Mississippi. Sorteberg students will attend Eisenhower and Sand Creek. It has not yet been determined how those buildings will be
currently attending Riverview Specialty School in Brooklyn Park and Champlin
Elementary School in Champlin will attend school at the Park View building,
which is located next to Jackson Middle School. Because there will not be
enough space at Park View for all students, some will attend school in a
portion of Jackson. That portion
of the Jackson building was originally Oxbow Creek Elementary School. The two
buildings were linked with a classroom-lined corridor that provided flexibility
for changing needs. As middle school enrollment grew, more space was needed so
a new building was built for the elementary school and the original Oxbow Creek
facility became part of Jackson, greatly expanding the capacity of the middle
school. There is discussion of linking the Park View building to Jackson with
an enclosed walkway and providing a barrier in Jackson to separate elementary
classrooms from the middle school portion of the building.
has been made about alternate uses for the Riverview and Champlin buildings.
Middle School, one of the district's oldest buildings, will close and students
will attend Fred Moore Middle School Center for the Arts. Sixth graders from
the combined schools will attend classes at the Washington building, which is
five to six blocks from Fred Moore.
The school closings were prompted by declining
enrollment and the need to reduce expenditures in light of state funding
shortfalls. As the result of a drop in the birth rate and aging of the
population, enrollment has dropped by nearly 2,000 students since its peak in
2004. The decline is expected to continue for the next 20 to 30 years according
to the state demographer. The
district currently has 94 empty elementary classrooms and approximately 1,400
extra middle school seats.
The School Board based much of its decision
on school closings on the recommendations of the Facility Use Task Force, a
group of community members and staff that developed school closing criteria and
studied detailed data about enrollment and facilities before recommending 17
schools for potential closure. Criteria included such things as actual operating costs, capacity of school, transportation
costs per school, specialized programs, geographical barriers and traffic trend
issues, and others. The School Board also considered the impact of closings on
surrounding schools to ensure that the changes would not result in creation of
"racially isolated" schools, which is contrary to state and federal law.
The schools selected by the board for closing
were all recommended by the task force and closely match one of the task
for complete information on the Facility Use Task
The board also approved changes in school attendance
area boundaries to accommodate students from schools that will close. The
boundary change process included meetings at each school plus a series of