Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Minnesota Public Radio.
Since the Star Tribune broke the story about the Minneapolis superintendent proposing the closure of North High, a rally has already been scheduled for tomorrow night's school board meeting. A robust discussion is occurring on the Minneapolis Issues Forum. I encourage readers to check it out and contribute to the dialogue there. However, the Issues Forum has its limitations. Only two comments per 24 hours are allowed, and one cannot comment anonymously. So I'm offering up the NXNS site for a such a dialogue if folks wish to do so here.
This is quite the conundrum. North High is reportedly the oldest continually functioning high school in all of Minneapolis (although not always out of its current location). It boasts quite a few famous graduates (we'll forgive them for letting Sid Hartman get a degree). And yet, despite everything it ought to have going for it, only 42 students enrolled in the freshman class. The current proposal allows for these 42 to remain until graduation, but I can't see that happening. If I were a freshman and the school were closing, I know I'd want to transfer somewhere else.
We can cry and holler all we want, but at the end of the day it's that number that's the most significant factor at play. A school of this size simply cannot function with so few students entering its doors each year. On the Issues Forum, some very pertinent questions get raised...
...such as "What good is moving the MPS HQ to north Minneapolis if there are no schools left?" And frankly, if we're just going to shut down a school, why do we even need to spend taxpayer money on a new building? Let's just have them move in at 1500 James if it comes to that.
Two of the main factors that Forum readers attribute to the school's decline are the closure of several middle schools in north Minneapolis, as well as the NAACP lawsuit resulting in the Choice is Yours. The latter item sounded good, but if we're spending tax dollars to bus our kids away from local schools and they're not performing any better, and the decline in enrollment leads to the closure of more and more neighborhood schools...well, then it just seems like one of those things we pave the road to hell with.
Not only that, but I'm sure we'll find plenty of people calling upon our elected officials to save North High - as well they should. But where are these neighbors' children attending school? If we're not sending our own kids to our local high school, what gives us the right to demand that it be kept open? On the other hand, why should a parent send their child to anything less than the best school they can? Wouldn't you want your kid to have the greatest opportunities possible at their fingertips when they graduate? If North High doesn't give that to enough children, why should parents just have their kids go anyway?
Even so, the loss of a school in the neighborhood is going to make it that much harder to attract or retain quality homeowners. There are two things that are primary contributors to the desirability of a neighborhood: the quality of its housing stock and access to amenities. A vibrant school system is one of the top amenities homeowners look for.
So if 42 students per year isn't enough to justify keeping North High open, then what will it take to boost enrollment numbers?