Lots of change as St. Paul schools reopen following consolidation

Tuesday morning, just before the first classes of the new school year began at 7:30 a.m., a youngster stumbled out of a pickup vehicle in the Bruce Vento Elementary parent drop-off lane.

Principal Nicky Napierala noted the two-hour difference from last year’s 9:30 start time and remarked, “Usually, they belt out out the door.”

About half of the facilities in St. Paul Public Schools are experiencing substantial changes this fall, including closures and mergers, reopenings and new schedules.

Nearby John A. Johnson Elementary, one of five schools that shuttered due to poor enrollment, has sent around one-third of its students and staff to Bruce Vento. It is also one of a dozen schools whose start times were shifted by an hour or two in order to maintain the availability of early and late start times for students in every neighborhood of the city.

The early start had advantages and disadvantages, but Napierala said the combination with John A. Johnson was “the right match.”

She said, “I’m so thrilled that we get to welcome John A. Johnson kids and help them feel like they’re a part of a new community. We essentially acquired their whole workforce, which is fantastic.

The goal of the consolidation was to create “well-rounded” schools with professors who specialize in non-core topics in order to maintain enrolment following a ten-year drop. Napierala said she was able to add experts in science, social studies, and media technology now that she had around 600 pupils.

Next year, when the district begins constructing a new school on the eastern side of the land in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, Bruce Vento will see even more upheaval.

That will need Farhan Aden to bid farewell to the structure where the older two of his four children received their education.

“It was a fantastic experience. He added after dropping off his fifth-grade kid, “The school is absolutely great.

Since the spring of 2021, classes in the St. Paul area have been conducted on-site, but parents’ thoughts haven’t been off the coronavirus epidemic. Tuesday morning, when numerous children entered Bruce Vento wearing face masks, Aden commented, “It seems nearly like a typical school year.”

It was difficult, but we succeeded, he remarked.

At this time, St. Paul Public Schools no longer need masks.

The district’s online school now has 834 students enrolled as opposed to 1,247 in October of last year, when there was also a lengthy waiting list. The online elementary school has only 335 pupils, down from 733 the previous year, although the middle and high school are both full.

The district is still dealing with a personnel shortfall that has been exacerbated by the epidemic and a positive job outlook for the state.

On Thursday, there will be a virtual job fair for special education teachers and paraprofessionals. The district will also largely depend on Metro Transit to transport children to and from high schools since, as of two weeks ago, it was only expecting to have 215 bus drivers, up from 175 last year but down from 300 prior to the epidemic.

District spokeswoman Erica Wacker said that 50 out of 230 buses were at least 10 minutes late collecting up children on Tuesday morning, which she called “much better than last year.”

She claimed that on the first day of work, “our contractors are reporting terrible traffic as a huge challenge.”

Jackson and John A. Johnson elementary schools have been closed since the amalgamation.

Galtier Elementary and the lower campus of L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion have both closed and reopened as centers for young children.

Although Parkway is still a middle school, it now focuses on Hmong studies rather than Montessori.

In the consolidation, Bruce Vento, Maxfield, Phalen Lake, Hamline, JJ Hill, and the upper campus of L’Etoile du Nord will all be taking on additional primary school pupils.

After moving its community school program to Cherokee Heights, which had already discontinued Montessori, River View Elementary now only accepts kids who are learning Spanish and English simultaneously.

With a concentration on technology, engineering, and agriculture, Highwood Hills Elementary, which was on the verge of closing, is attempting to reinvent itself.

Beginning with the current academic year, Ramsey Middle School will be known as Hidden River.

Additionally, juniors and seniors in high school may take career-focused programs in the afternoons at the new Career and Pathway Center on the St. Paul College campus.

All 10 high schools, up from three last year, are implementing block schedules, where students attend four sessions for a total of 79 minutes one day and a different set of four classes the next. In the meanwhile, 12 schools have new start times.

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