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Saying Hello; Saying Goodbye

By Youth Writer Landry S.

The Minneapolis Public Schools recently transitioned middle-school students from online to in-person learning. My school, Seward Montessori, was once again an in-person K-8 school — younger K-5 students had already gone back to school about a month earlier.

Since returning to my seventh-grade classroom, things have been different on many levels. COVID 19 pandemic protocols have students wearing masks all day and practicing social distancing. Teachers have put everyone in assigned seats for easier contact tracing if someone reports a positive COVID test. Several students are missing from classes because they have decided to continue their learning online. And, we’re all eating lunch in our advisory classrooms instead of the cafeteria so we can practice social distancing with our masks off.

Despite all these challenges, we are all thrilled to be returning to school. In fact, the majority of students are not looking forward to summer as much as we ordinarily would. Because after this school year, many of us will have to say goodbye to each other again and, possibly, forever. This is because of the sweeping changes coming to MPS next year with the Comprehensive District Design, also known as the CDD.

The CDD is a plan that Minneapolis Public Schools is implementing in the fall which will redraw the district lines and move over two thirds of Minneapolis students to new schools. Many K-8 schools will become K-5 as a part of this plan. My school, Seward Montessori, is one of them.

The goals of the CDD are to achieve greater equity between schools in the MPS district, improve academics for everyone and reduce expenses. In May 2020 the redesign was approved by the Board of Education with plans to launch in the fall of 2021.

This is going to be a hard change for everyone — students and teachers alike. Teachers will have to relocate to new teaching jobs and some have already left Seward. Most of the remaining middle-school teachers have committed to new teaching positions at new schools for the next year. Friend groups among students who had planned to graduate together will be split up by new district boundaries and new schools. Six of my immediate friends are going to 4 different schools for eighth grade. Even students attending high school in the fall may be playing musical chairs. In our area, some students who planned to go to Roosevelt High School might end up at South High and vice versa.

Last week I sat down on a Zoom call with a friend to discuss our views about in-person learning and the CDD. I asked him how he felt about the transition back to in-person learning. “I think the transition back has gone smoothly for our school. A couple weeks back we had a situation where a student had COVID-19 and we all had to quarantine for two weeks and when we came back to school we all had to sit in an assigned seat,” he said. “I’m glad that MPS took these precautions to keep us safe and keep the spread of COVID away from Seward.”

Then I asked him about the CDD. “I feel bittersweet about the CDD because I might not get to see my friends again,” he said. “I think this is a step forward to get more equity and diversity in our schools, but I’m also sad because a lot of friendships might be lost forever.”

The pandemic brought challenges we could never have foreseen and forced everyone to adapt in new ways. While new transitions have become almost routine, they can still be difficult for everyone. The CDD is another transition we will all have to adjust to. But it’s also going to be a new adventure with new friends and almost certainly old friends too. Hopefully, with the technology we have learned during the pandemic, we will all be able to stay connected.

“My school, Seward Montessori, graduates its last group of middle-school students in June.”

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