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LETTER: What about equity for all in choice programs for all families?

I would like to pose a question that many may not have thought about. Where is the equality in choice program schools in our district?

In November, the majority of taxpayers voted to approve the bond referendum to build a new middle school and renovate the existing middle school and allow a choice program to have its own space. Twelve million dollars will be spent to renovate Oltman Middle School, plus an additional $8 million in non-voter approved lease levy dollars will be spent to expand Nuevas Fronteras, a choice program that you are able to enroll in only as a kindergartner, and increase its enrollment by almost 50 percent from 363 to 650 students. This is also a program that loses students to attrition and is not able to attract more students in the upper grades of elementary.

The Gateway program is a District 833 choice program, which students need to be invited and tested in order to be accepted. It is proposed to be relocated to Valley Crossing and in doing so will also be increasing their number of students allowed to be included.

Valley Crossing is a choice program which District 833 has been a part of for the past 20 years and a year ago purchased through non-voter approved lease levy dollars. In the past 20 years of the school’s operation, it has been very successful and was a forerunner in the responsive classroom movement in the Midwest. It has received state- and national-level awards for its work in this and its consistent high-ranking test scores.

Recently, Commissioner Brenda Cassellius from the Minnesota Department of Education kicked of her statewide tour of repeat performing schools at Valley Crossing to find out what made it so successful. District 833 has not promoted Valley Crossing to the same extent it has with the other two choice programs and now with the current boundary change proposition is threatening to take away a successful choice program while expanding the other two programs.

Where is the equity in choice programming and choice for all families?

Mary E. Yapp


Editor’s note: Mary E. Yapp is a choice parent and taxpayer of District 833.