The Little School That Could

Only in Prospect Park would news that the neighborhood's pride and joy, Pratt Elementary, is slated for merger with another Southeast Minneapolis school be greeted with vows to redouble the amount of community elbow grease being applied.

In other quadrants of the city, the kind of news Pratt's absorbing would touch off a stampede to get little Charlotte and Dylan into the Waldorf school. But Pratt's parents--half Somali immigrants, half university staff and other middle-class types hopelessly prone to civic do-goodism--are apparently responding by e-mailing one another to make sure there are enough volunteers on the roster to bring all the new students up to speed.

Sure, make the rest of us look all self-interested and unwilling to sacrifice our pocketbooks for our principles. We ought to come TP your precious watchtower.

On Monday night, parents and neighbors gathered at Pratt, expecting to hear Minneapolis Public Schools brass say their school was one of the ones the district planned to close. They thought it was a courtesy call to let the community know before MPS staff presented their explanations to the board the following night. As it happened, the meeting was a heads-up, but to news that staff were recommending nearby Tuttle be closed and it's elementary students moved to Pratt. Pratt currently has just 90 students in four classrooms; the addition of Tuttle's K-5 population would triple the size of the student body.

The community publication The Bridge has a lengthy dissection of MPS staff's reasoning, posted today on

It's not a done deal; MPS has scheduled a public comment session at Tuttle, the school slated for closing, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 28th. That's to be followed by a larger hearing on the overall closing plan to be held at Patrick Henry High School on April 10, and, of course, a school board vote, now scheduled for April 12.

Still, Pratt's supporters--who lovingly rehabbed the old school with their own hands and their own money--are already talking about how to turn disappointment into opportunity. "To make the Pratt model survive, we'll have to be really careful," says parent Scott Johnson. "I would never want to get into pitting one community against another. We all care deeply about our schools."