So What is Aldo Sicoli Trying to Say Here?
By Andrew Richter
OK I’ve read this a few times and the more I read it the more confused I get. In a long and meandering narrative in the Sun Post Robbinsdale School Superintendent Dr. Aldo Sicoli says……well I’m not sure what he says.
Robbinsdale Area Schools remains a district of choice for families living in our seven-city boundaries. Our strong and steady enrollment over the last five years, coupled with exciting program changes, have veered away from past projections and accelerated our need to re-examine our long-range facilities plan.
During discussions of our facilities challenges, our school board members have analyzed and discussed how we ended up in this place when seven to 10 years ago we faced declining enrollment that resulted in closing schools.When analyzing the next five years of enrollment and capacity, we are anticipating a need for significant facilities changes in several of our buildings just to keep pace with our conservative growth.
We have certainly experienced a turnaround in the past five years, some of which is a result of decisions and intentional action from our school board. In 2008, it was difficult to fund all the schools and buildings we had. Our school board made decisions needed at that time, based on the best knowledge and projections available to them. Over the past six years, we have saved money from options implemented from those decisions.
The facilities challenges that we experience today are primarily due to increased enrollment or decreased capacity since 2008. Increased enrollment is a good problem for us to have; however, it brings with it facilities challenges because many of our buildings are relatively full. Student enrollment followed projections 2008-11. Since 2011, we have seen a spike.
OK wait a minute. A spike? According to the Sun Post, enrollment in June of 2011 was 11,450. I June of 2012 it was 11,519. In January 2014 the number was 11,827. Enrollment for 2014-2015 is 11,821. The same report indicates that perhaps 12, 196 students will be attending Robbinsdale schools in January 2019.
That really isn’t much of a spike. Keep a few other things in mind as well; first we already re-opened a school; Olson Elementary for the STEAM school and that even if these projections pan out (and they are educated guesses at this point) the number of kids projected is still less than what the district had in 2008 when they had 12, 308 students. I’d also point out that the district is still importing over 1000 students from other districts.
There have been some changes that we hoped for in our planning and there are some reasons for enrollment changes that were hard to anticipate in long-range planning that occurred over six years ago. Free full-day kindergarten was approved in 2013 by the Legislature throughout the state of Minnesota. Our families have jumped at this opportunity to send their students to a full-day program. We have seen an increase in kindergarten enrollment that exceeded past projections. Additionally, we now have more kindergartners than seniors graduating, which will help sustain strong enrollment.
Another change that has been a game-changer is the expansion of school-based preschool/pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs. Nationally, there is more of a demand for pre-K programs and we see that same trend in our district. We know that when students are prepared for kindergarten they have a higher likelihood of success in school. We believe the expansion of pre-K is likely to continue, and school-based programs will be in high demand. Families that use school-based pre-K generally stay enrolled in our district, which increases retention.
Blah, blah…..the usual educrat BS
The successful opening of the School of Engineering and Arts in 2012 was another catalyst for the steady enrollment we see in the district today. This popular magnet school has helped us retain resident families at higher levels and recruit more non-resident students to the district.
Wasn’t that the point in opening it in the first place? Why have it open if it didn’t retain more students?
In addition to enrollment increases over past projections, we are also experiencing decreased capacity in our buildings compared to previous years because of changes in several of our programs. Full-day kindergarten, the growth of pre-K programs, middle school extension classes and lower class sizes have contributed to decreased capacity in our schools.
Many of these things were the direct results of school board decisions and legislative actions that the district advocated, right?
Full-day kindergarten and the growth of pre-K programs require more classroom space than our facilities have traditionally provided. The community and our district are proud to boast our lower-than-average class sizes. Five years ago, we found a need to reduce our class sizes to better serve families. We believe this lower student-to-teacher ratio is necessary to maximize student learning and maintain a competitive advantage.
Other capacity changes have been felt in our middle schools with the elimination of study halls to add more math and reading classes. Additionally, adding a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) magnet program at Robbinsdale Middle School has changed the way some space is used in that school. As we plan for future enrollment and facility needs, we know there are implications for all our stakeholders. In upcoming months, our goal is to convene a community group to further study our future facility needs.
Oh brother, another committee? A committee usually sounds good but only if they aren’t filled with board members, district employees, and local politicians who try to steer the committee in a certain direction.
Providing students with a great education that prepares them to be career and college ready is at the forefront of our current discussions. My best days are the days I spend in our schools. Schools are an important resource for all our families and the community at large. I invite you to visit our schools and see first-hand the great things taking place every day.
Yeah yeah…..so what is he trying to say here? Dr. Sicoli is a smart guy and I’m sure he calculated this article. Is he trying to make the case that we need another school? Is he trying to start the conversation?
If the district “needs” to open a new school I’m not sure what their options are. Cavanaugh has been sold, New Hope, Sunny Hollow, and Sandburg have been re-purposed, and Pilgram Lane would need $10 million or more in renovations after spending the past six years dormant.
I don’t know what to make of this and I have no idea where Sicoli or our union-backed school board are going to do, but it’s an issue we are committed to following.