St. Paul school board moves toward closing Roosevelt, Longfellow schools, keeping Sheridan open.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The St. Paul school board formally adopted measures to close Roosevelt and Longfellow elementary schools after next school year, and to keep open Sheridan Elementary School, which had faced closing.

The board put off until next year deciding upon closing a third school, which it must do to cut more than $500,000 from its annual budget that would have been saved had it adopted an earlier plan to close and repurpose Sheridan.

About 30 people from the Roosevelt school community attended Tuesday's board meeting to argue against its closing; several formally addressed the board. Most said that Roosevelt, on St. Paul's West Side, is a community anchor to the Hispanic and Hmong immigrants it serves.

"If we keep closing down schools on the West Side, there's not going to be a West Side community," said Ginny Almquist, a former Roosevelt student and recent high school graduate.

Board member Keith Hardy led the opposition to Roosevelt's closing, but he stood out as the lone dissenter. Others complained that the process hadn't included sufficient community input.

But board Chairman Kazoua Kong-Thaou spoke passionately about how closing any school is difficult. She had been to Roosevelt and attended the Hmong New Year celebration there, but still favored closing it. "If not Roosevelt, then who?" Kong-Thao said. "We have to make a very tough decision tonight."


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