Several Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District members have come to terms with school closures in the face of the district’s worsening financial picture, but others this week said the idea would harm students and families.
Around 150 community members attended Tuesday’s district forum, which was facilitated in Somali and was the last on the topic. Many attendees said they hoped the district would find a different way to get their finances in order in the face of declining enrollment.
Rahma Ahmed said she has children at Sky Oaks Elementary, Nicollet Middle and Burnsville High schools.
“They don’t understand why the school is going to be closed,” she said. “They’re just kids.”
Ahmed worried about increased class sizes, students getting less attention from their teachers and staff members losing their jobs.
Transportation is another concern among parents, and Ahmed said she worries especially about families who don’t own a car.
“We need all the schools to be open,” she said.
The district hired Roger Worner, an expert on facilities planning, to guide the process and present at a series of public meetings held throughout October.
Worner’s review completed last summer found underused facilities significantly contributed to the district’s financial strain, which has led to around $11 million in spending cuts in the past two years.
The report recommended closing two elementary schools and one middle school and selling the Diamondhead Education Center at the end of next school year.
The district lost over 1,500 students in the past 10 years and expects to lose over 700 more in the next five years, according to Worner’s report.
He said there’s not enough space in any elementary school to relocate all the students from the closed school together, and a closure of two elementary schools would affect at least four schools in terms of boundary realignment.
Board of Education Chairwoman Abigail Alt previously said the closures could bring an opportunity to “right-size” the district and bring about a positive change for the entire community.
The Board of Education expects a recommended plan for closures on Nov. 14 before a final plan vote on Dec. 12. A public hearing on the proposal, required by state law, is scheduled for Dec. 4.