The ISD 279 School Board has directed administration to prepare a resolution to align grade spans districtwide to K-5, 6-8, 9-12. If approved at the March 18 regular school board meeting, the change would take effect beginning with the 2015-2016 school year.
Changing grade spans will relieve space pressures at the elementary level, primarily related to expansion of all-day kindergarten, and will provide better alignment for ninth-graders related to graduation requirements, curriculum, and high school activities.
Without grade span changes, elementary schools will be overcrowded and boundary changes will be required at approximately 7-11 elementary schools, affecting an estimated 400-plus students.
The grade reconfiguration plan also includes space additions at each of the three comprehensive high schools in order to avoid boundary changes caused by changing grade spans.
Moving 6th grade to the middle level will create needed space at the elementary level and will allow staff to design a program that offers more developmentally appropriate programming for students in this age range than the current junior high model.
District Strategic Plan
Expanding access to all-day kindergarten programming has been a district priority since 2007. Over the past several years, through the strategic use of compensatory and Title I dollars, the district has been able to gradually increase opportunities for full-day kindergarten.
State funding for all-day kindergarten programming
The Minnesota Legislature approved funding for all-day kindergarten programming, beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. The opportunity to provide all-day kindergarten is both a benefit and a challenge for many Minnesota school districts, including Osseo Area Schools. There is a significant educational benefit for early learners across our state. The challenge for many districts is that additional classroom space will need to be created. With half-day kindergarten, a single classroom could serve two sections of half-day students (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). While full-day programming is not expected to bring in additional numbers of students, the expansion of full-day kindergarten in Osseo Area Schools will require approximately 18 additional classrooms because each kindergarten section will use a classroom for the entire day.
Before considering a specific recommendation to create the needed space, the school board gave administration permission to step back and take a systemic look at space K-12 across the school district.
How the grade span configuration work evolved
A housing study was completed to analyze the housing stock within the school district. This type of analysis helps identify the number of students coming from households and where they might be located. The housing study found that in some parts of our community, residents are “aging in place” (adults staying in homes longer, resulting in fewer students per average household). Another finding of the study was that development and growth is occurring in certain other areas of the district. The housing study also helped inform enrollment projections that were presented to the school board in December.
October 1, 2013
At a public work session, the school board provided direction to research options for space, including the option of reconfiguring grade spans.
December 17, 2013
At the December 17 work session, the school board reviewed the All Day Kindergarten Result Team report and considered the two strategies that had emerged to gain the space for the expansion of all-day kindergarten:
- Building additions at several elementary schools and changing boundaries, as necessary.
- Changing grade configuration in order to gain the space needed at the elementary level and align high school grades with Minnesota graduation requirements and the more common grade span configuration in the metro area.
Supt. Kate Maguire presented some preliminary thinking that would have allowed grade reconfiguration to take place by adding space to one high school, while moving approximately 400 total students from the other two high schools to the school with expanded space. Staff presented a preliminary analysis of benefits and challenges (Appendix D of the report) associated with keeping the current grade spans or moving to a K-5, 6-8, 9-12 configuration. The board then directed staff to seek community and staff feedback on the early ideas around grade configuration.
December 2013-early February 2014
Three information sessions were held for families and members of the community; two information sessions were held for staff; and feedback was collected through an online feedback form and the general WeListen email address.
February 10, 2014
The community and staff feedback summary was shared with the board at the February 10 work session, at which the board also reviewed an updated analysis of benefits and challenges associated with the current and proposed grade spans.
In response to the feedback regarding support for different grade spans as long as they didn’t require significant boundary changes, staff provided information about options for adding space onto all three comprehensive high schools instead of just one. Adding space to all three high schools could be accomplished through the use of lease levy, which would cost approximately $1.50 per month ($18/year) for the typical district homeowner. A lease levy would require board approval but would not require voter authorization. Funds for building additions would not come from either of the recently approved operating or technology levies.
March 4, 2014
At the March 4 work session, board members reviewed the information gathered by staff regarding multiple high school additions and impact on student numbers at each school (not boundary changes) and directed administration to prepare a resolution to change grade spans districtwide to K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The resolution will be presented for board action at the March 18 regular meeting.
Decisionmaking and implementation timelines
If the resolution is approved, the implementation timeline could be as follows (general estimate):
Formal action by school board to move forward with K-5, 6-8, 9-12 grade spans, including additions at high schools.
Design of middle level programming.
January Complete high school registration for 9-12
Jan-August Construction planning for opening of school in Fall 2015