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South Washington County School district's shot at Crosswinds '50-50'

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education Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus was on the road last week talking to parents in schools that would be affected if the district takes over Crosswinds school in Woodbury.

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The odds are 50-50 that South Washington County Schools will acquire Crosswinds, Jacobus told parents at Woodbury Elementary, Crestview Elementary and Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion schools.

Jacobus began the week at Woodbury Elementary with about 70 parents to explain a plan to move the school's population to Crosswinds, including special education programs. Crosswinds has students with special needs, he said.

Advantages for Woodbury students include a theater, pottery room with a kiln and a larger gym at Crosswinds, Jacobus said.

Spanish Immersion, which is for children whose parents want them to be bilingual, would move to Woodbury from Crestview in Cottage Grove, creating more room for the traditional program at Crestview that had a declining number of students but is now showing growth.

The main concern for parents of the 490 students at Woodbury is losing their neighborhood school with 170 walkers being bused to a new school, Jacobus told parents at Crestview.

It's important to be reminded that the changes affect young children, Jacobus said.

Spanish Immersion, with 350 students, would occupy only part of the Woodbury Elementary School.

An addition would be built, for $800,000 to $1 million, to connect Woodbury Middle School with the elementary school. It would be a two-story addition with eight additional classrooms.

The district's main space issue is at the middle school level, Jacobus said, with about 3,000 housing units expected within that attendance boundary.

Crosswinds, with buildings and grounds valued at more than $25 million, would come to the district at no cost but would cost about $1 million a year to operate.

Still, Jacobus said, the upkeep trumps having to buy land and build a new school sometime in the future because the district is still growing.

Crosswinds wouldn't need extensive remodeling, he said. Bathroom sinks would be lowered for primary grades and about $250,000 would be needed to upgrade a playground and add fencing so children don't wander into a wetland area.

Crestview parents, who expressed concern for Woodbury parents about leaving their neighborhood school, asked their principal, Rich Romano, what changes they could expect.

Romano said that instead of two classes at each grade level, it could be increased to three. Two pre-kindergarten classes now at Armstrong Elementary School could be moved back. There would be three kindergarten sections with all-day class offered free.

Intermural and intervention programs would return to Crestview and there would be room for district preschool screening.

The Crestview and Nuevas Fronteras Media Center was packed with parents wanting information about a possible move, the program having been moved twice in nine years.

One of their concerns was about the current feeder plan for kids moving on after fifth grade.

The current plan includes immersion students in grades 6-8 at Cottage Grove Middle School taking two classes a day in Spanish. Next year, the first class of immersion students will enter Woodbury High School where they will continue to have two classes in Spanish.

Parents favor the plan to eventually shift partial immersion to Woodbury Middle School, as a more logical progression, they told Jacobus.

Though the Woodbury Elementary media center would remain as a library for Nuevas Fronteras, there might be other shared facilities. At some time in the future, expanding immersion might be considered, he said.

Crosswinds, located near the Tamarack Interchange on Interstate 494 in Woodbury, is being divested by the East Metro Integration District (EMID) and the 10 districts that support it because the members want to use their state integration money to support programs in their own districts, leaving a funding problem for Crosswinds.

The school, built as a magnet school for integration in 2003, focuses on science and the arts and has a capacity for 600 students. There are about 300 students enrolled with 40 coming from District 833, Jacobus said.

The EMID school board decided in January that Crosswinds would go to the Perpich Center for the Arts if the center can secure funding from the Legislature. Center representatives told EMID in January that it would need $2 to $3 million but have since told legislators the school could operate on state aid money that follows each student wherever they are enrolled.

If the Legislature doesn't alter the policies governing the Perpich center, which is a state agency, to allow it to accept Crosswinds by April 1, the school will go to District 833.

In the meantime, planning must continue, Jacobus said, because the district promised EMID that it would have a school at Crosswinds this fall if it acquires the building.

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