The Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve an operating budget, capital plan, and long term facilities maintenance plan and bond for the 2024-25 school year at its final regular business meeting of the school year Tuesday. The board also adopted a gender inclusion policy and a resolution creating a task force to develop a plan for Anishinabe Academy to relocate to a separate school building in 2025-26 school year.

The superintendent recommended a new literacy curriculum for kindergarten through third graders and public comment time was dominated by community members asking the district to find a school building for Anishinabe Academy.

The board reversed its earlier decision to delay playground projects this summer while it develops a new playground policy to require spaces be more accessible for students with disabilities. Playground projects at Bryn Mawr, Kenwood and Pratt Elementary Schools will go forward this summer. Minneapolis Schools Voices published a community post about repairs needed at Bryn Mawr Elementary School earlier this week.

The district reached new collective bargaining agreements with its food service workers and principals. The school board voted to approve those contracts.

Director Faheema Ferrayarre was not in attendance.

The board will meet again on June 18 at 4 p.m. at the Davis Center for a special business meeting. After a break in July, the board will return on Aug. 6 for a regular business meeting at 5:30 p.m.

Superintendent recommends a partial adoption of an elementary literacy curriculum

Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams is recommending that the district adopt a foundational skills curriculum for kindergarten through third grade students called UFLI at 15 of the district's 44 schools that teach elementary school students next year. In 2025-26, all elementary schools will be required to use UFLI. St. Paul Public Schools has already implemented UFLI in its elementary schools.

The district will also continue to utilize Benchmark as the literacy curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade students. Elementary literacy curriculum requires two components, foundational skills and knowledge-building, to align with the science of reading.

The district underwent a curriculum audit of Benchmark in 2023 and determined it did not meet district standards. Two prior audits in 2009 and 2015 had previously found deficiencies with the way the district teaches students to read.  

Sayles-Adams is recommending the district delay adopting a knowledge-building curriculum until the 2025-26 school year for two reasons. First, the combined Literacy Steering Committee, made up of community members and staff, and the Representative Advisory Committee, made up of principals and teachers, said that neither State-approved knowledge-building curriculum meets the district’s standards for cultural sustainability and ease of implementation.

Minneapolis Schools Voices asked the district for the names and roles of members of both committees. The district responded by asking that we file a public records request for that information, which we have done.

The second reason for the delay is because of “initiative fatigue.” Elementary teachers began using a new math curriculum in 2022-23, and additional components of that curriculum will be required next year. In addition, third through fifth grade teachers will be implementing a new science curriculum next school year.

The district will also provide new social studies materials for elementary teachers next year after discarding a social studies curriculum the district purchased this year that turned out to not meet district requirements for cultural sustainability.

The district will also require all kindergarten through third grade teachers to complete LETRS training over the next two years. LETRS is intensive professional development aligned with the science of reading. Over the two years it requires approximately 170 hours of training to complete.

The requirement for professional development comes from the Minnesota Department of Education as part of the READ Act. Teachers who have previously completed LETRS training will not be required to retake the course. The State will require districts to certify that at least 80% of the educators required to complete literacy professional development under the READ Act have completed the training.

Public comments at the June 11 meeting

Public commenters were focused on the evening’s agenda items, with the majority of the commenters asking the school board to approve a resolution to develop a plan to move Anishinabe Academy, which is the district’s citywide school for American Indian elementary students, to a separate building in the 2025-26 school year. Anishinabe Academy has shared the Sullivan school building for 14 years, despite past promises from the district that it would one day have its own building. Commenters also asked that Anishinabe Academy students receive separate busing next school year because students and families feel unsafe sharing school buses with Sullivan STEAM Magnet School, which is a kindergarten through eighth grade school.

Parents and staff from Lake Nokomis Elementary School, Barton Elementary School, South High School and Whittier Elementary School spoke about the impact of the budget cuts on their schools. They asked the board to amend the budget to reverse some of the budget cuts that increased class sizes, eliminated funding for elementary foreign language programs and decreased mental health support for students.

Other commenters spoke in favor of the school board approving a new gender inclusion policy, which the board passed that evening. The policy will apply to all district schools. Currently, parents, staff, students and community members report that while some schools are already gender inclusive, this is not the case district-wide.

Parents from Bryn Mawr Elementary School and Pratt Elementary School asked the board to reverse its earlier decision to pause playground projects for one year so that the district could develop a playground policy requiring playgrounds to be more accessible for students with disabilities. The board paused the playground projects after students, staff and parents at Ella Baker Global Humanities Magnet School asked them to provide playgrounds that are accessible to all students. The board reversed this decision at the June 11 meeting.