Opening Olson and Pilgrim Lane?

The Sun Post has an interesting article on the ongoing magnet school debate;

District 281 magnet program could be full STEAM ahead in 2012. A subcommittee studying possible future magnet schools and partnerships in District 281 has set its top priority as a STEAM magnet at the Olson School site in Golden Valley. STEAM is an enhanced version of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) magnet program with arts added.

The Robbinsdale District 281 School Board received an update on the subcommittee’s priorities at an Aug. 8 work session.

“STEAM was talked about because our district has a long-standing tradition with the arts and wanting to educate the whole child,” said Lori Simon, District 281’s executive director of educational services. The addition of arts, she said, “might make our program more unique in the metro area. It would create more choice for families.”

And of course “choice” is just wonderful as long as District 281 provides it.

The subcommittee’s second priority is expanding the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School, possibly to the now-vacant Pilgrim Lane School site in Plymouth, Simon said.

A second magnet?  Didn’t we just close Pilgrim Lane?

The School Board would have to vote on a magnet school expansion by November, if a new program was to be offered in the fall of 2012.

And what do you want to bet that the vote is 7-0!

If there is sufficient demand, STEAM could be added in existing schools, but transportation would not be provided outside the attendance areas of those schools, the subcommittee said. The subcommittee, which met 29 times beginning in May 2010, was charged with determining ways to enhance the district’s revenue, either by increasing enrollment or slowing the trend of declining enrollment, Simon said.

Although the subcommittee was not charged with producing recommendations, it wanted the School Board to know that one option was preferable, Supt. Aldo Sicoli said. “The committee thought it would add a little uniqueness compared to other STEM schools,” Sicoli said. “We’re talking about additional non-resident students throughout the district.”

Boardmember Patsy Green said she is an advocate for STEAM. “A lot of technology is art-related, and this seemed like a natural fit,” Green said. “I have no fear at all that we won’t fill those seats.” Tia Clasen, District 281’s program director for communications and marketing, said, “The emphasis on creative thinking lends itself to every area.” Any magnet expansion program would be aimed at stemming the numbers of students who leave District 281 if they are not chosen by lottery to attend the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion program. Over four years, an average of 49 percent of the students who are not chosen leave the district, Simon said.

Simon said!  Simon said! What the article doesn’t mention is that a percentage of students who don’t live here will get first priority.  Think about it; if someone what to go to the STEM or STEAM program and a kid from another district gets in ahead of them is that going to make them want to stay in the district?  Let’s see what else Simon says;

Regarding the location for a new magnet program, data on the district’s two vacant elementary buildings – Olson in Golden Valley and Pilgrim Lane in Plymouth – indicate that “Olson is pretty much ready to move into right away,” Simon said. “Pilgrim Lane would need a pretty substantial investment right up front,” she said. “Gaining approval from the Minnesota Department of Education for deferred maintenance projects at Pilgrim Lane could be difficult.”

Investment?  You mean spending! MDE approval could be difficult? Yes and it should be since this is a school we just closed and don’t “need.”  How about the approval of the voters?

Even if the Department of Education granted approval, Simon said, the building wouldn’t be ready for 2012-13. “We can only expand one magnet now, and the only place to go is Olson,” Boardmember Tom Walsh said.

Sounds like everyone is all for this.  We can only do one now but later…..

As part of its study, the subcommittee earlier reviewed Spanish immersion lottery trend data, studied survey information from families who go elsewhere to school, developed a list of magnet school concepts to explore, looked at facilities analyses of the now-vacant Olson and Pilgrim Lane schools and examined financial considerations to determine the financial viability of a Spanish Immersion expansion or STEM.

An earlier analysis of the cost for needed capital improvements included for each school indicated that Pilgrim Lane has a larger site, more parking, a bigger building, more classrooms and larger average square footage in its classrooms. In almost every other major feature of the two facilities, however, Olson was shown to have newer equipment or operating systems. The bulk of Pilgrim Lane’s systems are original, including classroom ventilation, steam boiler and piping system, temperature control system, classroom ceiling tile system, gymnasium and media center lighting.

Consultants recommended replacement of Pilgrim Lane’s kitchen food prep station equipment and flooring, and the building’s ceiling system. The building’s classroom flooring is deemed “at the end of useful life range.” Analysis of the RSIS lottery trend date indicated that the total number of students not selected through the RSIS kindergarten lottery grew from 126 students in 2006-07 to 171 students in 2009-10. A total of 109 students were not selected for the current year.

The committee also earlier discussed expanding Spanish Immersion to Robbinsdale Middle School. Currently it is only offered at Plymouth Middle School. The proposal would eliminate district wide transportation of Spanish Immersion middle school students, saving between $65,000 and $90,000 a year. A District 281 divestiture committee studying surplus properties earlier recommended that Olson School in Golden Valley and Pilgrim Lane School in Plymouth be retained because they were most likely to be adapted for future use.

Though we would like to leave magnets to charter schools, we remain open to the possibility of a magnet.  They certainly offer new and different opportunities.  We were hoping that the “school within a school” option would be considered.  If the STEM program is so great, and 281 thinks everything they do is great, then why not give all of our students these opportunities rather then just those with a winning lottery ticket or to students who don’t live here.  Maybe that’s not feasible right now, who knows.

We are 100% against opening BOTH Pilgrim Lane and Olson especially considering how much money it will cost to renovate that school.  Voice your concern to the school board!

5 Responses to “Opening Olson and Pilgrim Lane?”

  1. 281exposedexposed Says:

    Re Opening Pilgrim and Olson,

    Way to distort the fact Ron, Candace, Andrew, and the rest of the folks at 281x. Out of district folks do not get “priority” at a new magnet school. What the board was discussing was setting aside a specific percentage for out of district. This would bring huge money into 281.
    The problem is you are more interested in distorting the truth and making people look bad then telling facts.

    How much do you want to bet we see Candace and Ron running for the board????
    God help us

  2. 281 Exposed Says:

    The district’s own numbers from their April public meeting showed that 33 of 198 slots from an expanded Spanish Immersion must come from students not enrolled in 281.

    Their own numbers show that 22 out of 66 slots for STEM need to come from students not enrolled in 281.

    A magnet won’t work unless these numbers are reached.

    This is NOT Candace Oathout, Ron Stoffel, or Andrew Richter despite your attempt to slander them publicly!

  3. 281 Exposed Says:

    We also point out, if you are able to read, that we are open to a magnet and the school within a school idea, but of course as honest as you are you don’t mention that.

    We don’t want it at Pilgrim Lane because it costs to much to renovate the building.

    We supposed you will include this on your copycat blog.

  4. Candace Oathout Says:

    Some people who remain unnamed sure like to cast insulting comments at anyone who disagrees with them don’t they? How much credibility can you give to them when they hide behind anonymous blog posts? Especially when they call out people by name with no facts to back their statements. This is my first to this blog and I am happy to say my name is Candace Oathout and I stand behind my comments wherever they appear in public. Too bad our friends at 281 overexposed won’t do the same.

  5. wants2know Says:

    It seems our unnamed friend or at 281 overexposed just can’t seem to accept truth even when it walks up and hits them in the face. This unnamed blogger takes great delight in slandering and insulting others with claims about what they know. It seems that their version of the “truth” stands at least in their own minds as unchallengeable and immutable. Dissent is certainly not even tolerated. I suggest until this person or persons stops hiding in anonymity they have no credibility. I frankly refuse to spend anymore time dealing with such closed minded nasty individual.
    Proudly signed,
    Candace Oathout

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