Envision SPPS: Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a well-rounded education?
At SPPS, a well-rounded education is one that meets the Minnesota K-12 academic standards by providing students with learning opportunities that give them the skills needed to succeed in getting an advanced degree and career.
A well-rounded education provides students with a broader, deeper educational experience that is filled with learning and enrichment opportunities. A well-rounded education is built on a strong understanding of the core essentials of reading, writing and math as students also learn from teachers with expertise in science, arts, social studies, world languages, physical education and health. A well-rounded education also provides students a range of enrichment opportunities like trips to museums and to see theater and music performances or to explore nature to learn science and math.
In addition, in an ideal-sized school, there’s a team of staff to provide students with learning that is more personalized to their specific needs, while also addressing their social-emotional and physical health needs. Students receive a broader range of school-based services such as a full-time nurse, counselor, psychologist and social worker. There may also be other specialized staff roles dedicated to family engagement and to address the needs of students and families from specific cultural backgrounds.
2. Why is SPPS proposing to make changes mostly at elementary schools?
For the most part, school budgets are based on the number of students enrolled at a school: The more students at a school, the more resources are available to fund a well-rounded education. This is because the state and federal government provides the district money to educate children based on the number of students they have; see this video for more information on how the district budget works.
Some SPPS’ elementary schools do not have enough students to provide a well-rounded program. Birth rates continue to decline in Minnesota and the city of St. Paul. This is a national trend that won’t be turning around any time soon. Fewer children being born means fewer students are entering our elementary schools. There are also other education options for families outside of SPPS.
At a certain point, we cannot afford to continue to keep schools open that are significantly under enrolled (do not have enough students). Historically, SPPS has funded under-enrolled schools through its general education budget to help keep their doors open. But to do so means taking resources from other schools that have enough students to maintain a strong, well-rounded education program. If we continue to weaken well-rounded programs across the district, more and more students are denied the strong education they deserve.
We also want to ensure we have strong programs to serve our students in special education programs, as well as advanced learning opportunities.
The time has come for us to implement long-term, sustainable solutions to ensure all students have equitable access to the well-rounded education they deserve. SPPS is committed to managing our resources wisely so we can fulfill our promise to families to prepare students to think critically so they can pursue their dreams and change the world. To be responsible with our resources, we must look at how we can build sustainable systems and programs to provide all students with the education they deserve now and into the future.
3. Will all SPPS schools be affected by these changes?
No. Most of these changes will happen to some elementary schools, and a minimal number of secondary programs (middle and high schools), and related middle and high school pathways may also change. It should be noted that by making our elementary schools stronger now, this will help to also keep our middle and high school programs strong because of the district’s ability to streamline its resources among elementary buildings.
4. How will this affect my school? When will I know if my school will be changing, e.g., co-locating, relocating or closing?
This fall, SPPS will provide the Board of Education with its recommendations of which school programs should change. Solutions for each school community will vary based on the unique circumstances of each school. Options may include co-locating, re-locating or closing programs. Most of these changes will happen to a minimal number of elementary schools, and some middle school programs and related middle and high school pathways may also change.
School buildings will not be sold, but they may be repurposed for other programs that are growing or to support programs that need more space.
5. When will these school changes go into effect?
Certain recommendations will be phased in over the next two years (2022-23 and 2023-24 school years), while others may be implemented at a later date.
6. Will families, students and staff have any input on what the new school program will be?
School communities will be involved in the process to envision what their new school will look like and how best their school can reflect its students, staff and neighborhood. Together, school communities will be able to build a strong, welcoming, well-rounded program that supports its students, families, staff and community. However, families and staff will not be making decisions on the exact type of program the school will have such as a particular magnet theme—that decision will be made a the district level so that we can ensure equitable access to programs for all students.
7. What impact does this have on schools scheduled for renovations?
Schools represented in the current Five-Year Facilities Maintenance and Capital Implementation Plan (5YP) will proceed with their planned renovations. The latest 5YP saved some funds for potential Envision SPPS projects to ensure any approved school program and facility changes would be provided for. No current or planned 5YP project will be changed.
8. Can’t the federal ARP/ESSER funds be used to fund under-enrolled schools and keep them open?
Through the federal ARP/ESSER funds, we are excited that so many more of our students and families will get to experience a strong, well-rounded education where students gain a deep knowledge of a wide range of subjects while also getting a range of social, emotional and mental health supports.
While these federal funds will boost the educational programs and supports at schools that are significantly under-enrolled, those funds are temporary. Funding will only be available for three school years (SY2021-22, SY2022-23, SY23-24).
We have to have a plan in place for when the money's gone to ensure there won’t be a gap that can’t be filled when we’re back functioning under the standard education funding model, which falls short in providing enough funds for strong education programs.
This makes it even more critical that we take this opportunity to implement long-term, sustainable solutions for providing every student with the well-rounded education they deserve.