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Enrollment fell in Minneapolis and St. Paul’s school districts this fall as both systems operate through major overhauls.

Members of the St. Paul School Board recently learned that the state’s second-largest district lost 2,204 students from a year ago – the largest annual decline in four years.

The 6.3% drop translates into a loss of revenue of $ 19.4 million, according to Marie Schrul, district finance director, who last week advised board members to take action to stem the losses and corral costs. This year’s drop, she said, “really catches people off guard.”

The board plans to vote next week on a plan to consolidate Envision SPPS that would close and evacuate five schools, and uproot students and staff from five others. The action comes amid renewed concerns about the climate and safety at school – issues that families have cited in the past as reasons for leaving the district.

Officials recognize that structural changes will not increase student numbers in the short term. Losses, in fact, are expected. But they are hoping for a possible rebound based on related actions to ensure that all primary school students have access to a comprehensive education including art, science, music and other subjects taught by specialist teachers.

Minneapolis public schools can attest that restructuring is causing losses.

Enrollments fell this fall at a faster rate than district leaders expected. As of Oct. 1, the district had 29,580 students, down about 7.6% from last school year. Before the pandemic, the city’s public schools had more than 33,500 students in fall 2019.

District-wide, kindergarten enrollments are slightly higher (1.8%) than last year, but also lower than expected.

Eric Moore, the district’s accountability, research and equity manager, attributed the drop to a combination of factors.

District leaders anticipated a drop in student numbers after a comprehensive district design was implemented that shifted attendance limits and moved Magnet schools to the center of town.

“Anytime you have a limit change, you usually see a certain number of students leave,” Moore said. He added that the pandemic and the uprising after George Floyd’s murder also affected family decisions about schools.

“We’re still figuring out what can be attributed to which room or what factor,” Moore said.

The district expects some younger children to return to school now that vaccines are available for children 5 and older. More open immigration policies under the Biden administration could also bring more students into Minneapolis schools, according to district leaders.

“We’re going to have a more accurate understanding of our registrations by about January,” Moore said.

During St. Paul’s rollout of its Envision SPPS plan, the district cited the theft of students to charter schools and other districts through open enrollment as major factors in its decline. Trustees shared with board members a list of 31 charter schools that have opened or expanded in the city over the past 10 years.

Class size limits negotiated by the St. Paul Federation of Educators were also cited at a board meeting in October as obstacles to opening additional seats in popular schools.

Board member John Brodrick then said he agreed the district was handcuffed by such limitations. But he said he also heard people say the district has failed to provide a comprehensive education, a safe and orderly environment and high standards of student behavior.

Since then, school climate and safety issues have surfaced in several district high schools.

Hundreds of students have left Highland Park High School because of what they described as the school’s “culture of sexual assault”, prompting an apology and a pledge of corrective action from the school board. School principal.

After a walkout and a scuffle that spilled over from Central High School, Principal Christine Vang announced last week that the district is sending five community ambassadors to walk the halls, as well as another liaison for tutoring.

On Monday, a student from Harding High brought a loaded gun to school. No threats were made, but the administration was made aware of the weapon via a pipe to school security personnel. Police and the district security and management team were immediately contacted, Principal Be Vang said in a letter to the families.

Laura Olson, district safety and emergency management director, said on Wednesday that school security staff had moved the student to a safe location and “safely separated from the individual from the gun. fire “, which was in a backpack.

The student was arrested by police and taken into custody without incident, she said.

Last week, Brodrick asked administrators what progress was being made in hiring people to help meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of students, among others, as noted in the District’s intended use of federal funds. fight against the pandemic.

He was told it was early and the neighborhood still had many other openings to fill.

“Some of this work is going to be delayed,” said Superintendent Joe Gothard. “That doesn’t mean those needs go away. We’re working as hard as possible to be creative without placing additional burdens on people who are already working hard to see what other supports we can put in place.”

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