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District prepping for grade and boundary changes

The school bonding referendum that District 833 voters said "yes" to in September will mean changes far beyond a new high school.

Grade configurations will be shuffled, teachers will have to get additional certification and boundary changes will take place.

The first change on the district timeline is moving the Spanish Immersion language program to a long-term home at Crestview Elementary School in Cottage Grove.

Presently the program is based at Bailey Elementary School, where kindergarten, first and second graders are participating.

Bailey Elementary will not have room for the program in the future, however, so it will be gradually moved to Crestview. The school has had declining enrollment in recent years, with little prospect that will change in the near future, according to district pupil services.

At the start of the 2007-08 school year, Spanish Immersion kindergarteners and first graders will be moved to Crestview, according to Dave Bernhardson, principal on special assignment.

Traditional classes at Crestview will be held alongside Spanish Immersion.

Students attending Bailey Elementary School will be allowed to finish there, but by the time they're done in the fall of 2009, all elementary schools will have made the transition to grades kindergarten through fifth grade. Moving sixth-graders out of the building will allow the Spanish Immersion students to progress in grade levels, according to Bernhardson.

A transition plan is underway to move sixth-graders to the junior high schools that will become "middle schools" with grades six, seven and eight. Ninth-graders will go to one of the three high schools when a new high school opens in fall of 2009.

The changeover will require changing attendance boundaries for the entire district, according to Secondary Superintendent Randy Zipf and will affect most of the students.

Preliminary boundary plans will be available a year from now with a final decision by the school board in the spring of 2008, he said.

The district's existing "feeder school" system will be changed, according to district officials.

Now, elementary schools in the south half go to either Cottage Grove or Oltman junior high schools and on to Park High School. Woodbury elementary schools go to Lake or Woodbury junior high schools and on to Woodbury High School. Newport students attend secondary schools in Woodbury.

Superintendent Tom Nelson said before the referendum passed that students slated to attend the new high school will come from various areas of the district and will not be restricted to the area nearest to the school.

Up to now, the boundary line between Cottage Grove and Woodbury hasn't been breached. With a third high school, city lines will blur with students from Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park and Newport possibly attending the new school in Woodbury.

Zipf said district officials visited Lakeville schools to learn how they made the transition from one to two high schools.

"They did a lot of things right," he said. "These changes are not just about buildings and bus routes."

Though not anticipated, a change in graduation standards by the Legislature could affect the transition in grade configurations and curriculums.

The number of new homes being built could also be a factor.

"Developers don't always listen to us," Zipf said.

If development comes as anticipated in Cottage Grove, Cottage Grove Elementary School sixth-graders would be moved to Cottage Grove Junior High School in fall of 2008, a year before new grade configurations go into effect.

Among the changes associated with the new grade arrangement is teacher licensure, Zipf said, which will be easier for teachers hired in the past several years because they have already taken needed classes.

Teachers licensed to teach grades seven through 12 will need to be licensed to teach sixth-grade, Zipf said.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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