By JANE MCCLURE
Galtier Elementary families, faculty, staff and supporters will know June 21 if their school will close at the end of the 2016-2017 year. After packing a May 31 special School Board meeting to plead for more time, they now must wait and see what happens. Many predict a close vote and hope it comes down on their side.
After months of speculation, Superintendent Valeria Silva announced last month that Galtier would close. She said that while Galtier is a good school, it just doesn’t have enough students to be viable.
Photo right: Parents and interested citizens packed an earlier open house where the closing of Galtier School was discussed. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)
Parents, who worked hard to attract more students in the face of a district program that allows neighborhood children to be bused to St. Anthony Park, said they need more time and more district assistance to help Galtier succeed. But they were frustrated by what they see as a dismissive and uncaring attitude by the school administration and some board members. Some said the school district lacks leadership and courage, and that it isn’t interested in helping students of color succeed in a neighborhood school.
Some went so far as to accuse the district of setting Galtier up for failure. Galtier had a major renovation just a few years ago. But it has also had program changes and a near-constant principal turnover. The school had 310 students in grades K-5 in 2012, its last year as a science magnet school.
Others were also unhappy on May 31 with a long district staff presentation that didn’t allow some families time to stay and testify.
School Board Member John Brodrick wants the district to give Galtier more time. “If we truly believe in the Strong Schools, Strong Communities (program), then we have to help a school like Galtier,” he said.
District officials want to combine Galtier with Hamline Elementary, which will have space in its building after the Jie Ming Mandarin Chinese School moves out. Some Galtier parents noted that because Hamline Elementary is also under-enrolled, they and their children could face another school move in just a few years.
Galtier’s enrollment is 158 pupils, and 13.67 staff and faculty. That drops to 144 pupils this fall. Eighty-eight percent of the students are at the poverty level. Parents said the uncertainty about the school, coupled with the lack of support from the district, hasn’t helped enrollment.
Some were frustrated with a joint outreach effort with Hamline Elementary, which fell apart earlier this year. “We never signed on to close Galtier,” said parent Clayton Howatt.
Galtier’s budget is $1.259 million. Keeping the school open could take an additional $300,000 to add recruiting staff, eliminating grade level classroom splits and technology staff. Closing the school could take steps including a transition time and what school district describe as a “healing” program.
Many parents said healing wouldn’t be needed as they’d simply pull their children out of St. Paul Public Schools if Galtier closes. A survey of Galtier families indicated that more than 40 percent would leave the school district if the school is closed.
“My son loves Galtier and has thrived at Galtier,” said parent James Luken-Hills. He said closing the school would cause his family to lose faith in the district.
Another neighbor resident noted Hamline Midway has only three elementary schools “And now you’re taking one of those choices away.”
Teachers and parents said Galtier needs more time and more attention paid to its open studio style of learning. “I hope to God we can work this out,” said parent Darren Hayes. His family moved to Hamline Midway for the chance to have Galtier as their neighborhood school.
Parent Mara Martinson said Galtier families raised money for recruitment, instead of getting viable district resources. She said that money could have been used for field trips and other items for their children. “We sacrificed out of our own pockets,” she said.