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Oltman students left to ponder what's next

Seventh-graders at St. Paul Park's Oltman Junior High School are in an uncommon position for students their age. They don't know where they're going to high school.

Most know District 833 is in the process of drawing new attendance boundaries for all schools. The choices made in the next few months will determine whether they attend the new high school, East Ridge, or the closer one, Park.

In two of the plans under consideration, students on the west side of Highway 61 in St. Paul Park are slated to go to East Ridge High School under construction in Woodbury. Those in Cottage Grove will attend Park High School.

Oltman student Anthony Hirman said he wants to go to Park because it's a tradition in his family. His mother and grandmother are Park graduates.

Hirman is worried that he and his best friend, TJ Thompson, will go to separate high schools.

"It would be terrible," Thompson said. "I've been with everybody all my life. These kids are my family."

Kayla Coy lives in St. Paul Park but said most of her friends live in Cottage Grove.

Most students say friendships are important.

"What if a lot of your friends go there?" said Natalie Sutliff. "They're kind of lucky to attend a new school but what if none of their friends are there?"

Sara Schulenberg said she would be "sad" if good friends were separated.

"I think it's really bad," said Megan Lukitsch. "We've adapted. What's the point of making new friends if you're going to be separated?"

Liz Larson thinks the situation is unfair. "It's hard for some kids to connect," she said.

Katja Peterson and Katie Uhlendorf said they don't want to be split from their friends.

Some students are more outspoken.

"It's not fair to split up schools," said Breanna Baker. "It seems odd to have Cottage Grove and Woodbury kids in the same school."

"They would have to drive me five miles past Park to get to a new school," said Gabe Howard.

"I don't think it makes any sense," said Joe Brysky. "I'd rather go to Park."

Some ninth-graders, if sent to East Ridge, will attend Park for their sophomore year and change schools for their junior and senior years.

Danny Kohnen, who plays sports, said he's not sure coaches will invest time in him if he'll only be there for one year.

He's also concerned that with no seniors in 2009 at East Ridge teams will be less competitive.

Some students, such at Chris Wilson, are neutral, but they are few.

"I don't like it but somebody has to go," said Emily Titus.

Kaitlyn Hugo, an eighth-grader, said going to a new high school would be fun. "We'd be the first sophomores," she said.

"It will be really cool," said Alexis Kleinschmidt.

"I'll meet new friends," said Kaile St. Croix.

"I don't think it's a good idea or bad," said Sam Simon. "Whatever happens, happens."

The school board is expected to approve boundaries for the three high schools following four public hearings.

Judy Spooner can be reached at

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.
(651) 459-7600