Tuttle Community School’s closing worries Como residents

The long-standing school will likely merge with Pratt Elementary.

McKenna Ewen

The Como neighborhood could further struggle to keep families in the area with the likely closure of a southeast Minneapolis school.

Tuttle Community School will likely merge with Pratt Elementary, and Tuttle’s middle school program would be cut.

Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bill Green made the recommendation based on a combination of factors including: student achievement, capacity and enrollment and in response to $141 million in district cuts.

“What we have is a situation in southeast Minneapolis where two of the three schools are seriously underpopulated,” Minneapolis Board of Education Chair Pam Costain said.

Minneapolis is working with a school system that is built for 50,000 students, but only has 36,000 students, she said.

That number could shrink to 28,000, Board of Education member Tom Madden said.

While the K-5 program would merge with Pratt Elementary, the middle school program, with a newly added science lab built with $140,000 of Neighborhood Revitalization Program money, would be cut.

One of the reasons for the decrease in enrollment at Tuttle Community School is the decrease of families in the Como area, James De Sota, Southeast Como Improvement Association neighborhood coordinator, said.

“Families have been leaving as a result of deterioration in housing stock, feeling abandoned by the city and higher taxes despite school and library closings,” De Sota said.

Many of these properties have been converted into rental housing occupied by University students.

From 2000 to 2006, 17 percent of owner-occupied housing turned to rental housing, said Jan Morlock, University director of community relations.

“Investor owners see an unlimited supply of people interested (with the University nearby),” she said.

The loss of the school would hurt Como’s ability to attract more families to the area, Morlock said.

“(A school is) one more asset in the community that you don’t have to sell to people,” she said.

At its healthiest, Southeast Como once had a 50-50 ratio between rental and owner-occupied housing, but those numbers in recent years have shifted closer to 80 percent rentals, De Sota said.

But Morlock said it’s important not to attribute decreased enrollment only to one or two factors.

“All the schools throughout Minneapolis are having problems maintaining enrollment,” she said.

Roughly 200 Tuttle supporters packed into the school’s theater on March 20 to plead to the board to change its decision.

Many felt blindsided by the news, released without the input of Tuttle community members.

“I knew that they were closing a few of the Minneapolis schools, but I had no idea that they were thinking about closing Tuttle,” said Tori Schneider, a University education senior and after-school tutor at Tuttle.

“(The decision involves) more than just the kids and families going to the school; it’s a community thing,” she said.

Another public hearing will be held Tuesday, April 10 at Patrick Henry High School in North Minneapolis. The board will make its final decision April 12.