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Task force decides to detach high school boundary plans

High School Attendance Boundary Task Force members, at their final meeting, Tuesday, March 25, decided to send three high school plans to the school board without attaching them to elementary and middle school plans.

They also mulled revisions suggested by an oversight committee that met March 18 and decided to make one change.

In the plan that was part of the Red Plan, they agreed students in the Wedgewood North subdivision in Woodbury would go to East Ridge High School and not Woodbury High School.

Members debated whether students in Timber Ridge, Oakwood Heights, Gateway North and Pine Summit in Cottage Grove slated to go to East Ridge in two plans, are within walking distance of Park High School, but didn't end up changing the plans.

Only 11 of the 150 homes in that area are within walking distance of Park, said Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations, after consulting the district's transportation department. The remainder would have to be bused to either high school.

After debating other suggested revisions, most members said resident concerns were reflected in at least one of the plans.

If changes were made to all the plans, the task force would end up with only one plan, said task force member Dale Schmidt.

"What is our charge here?" said Deanna Dohrmann, task force member.

Dohrmann asked why the task force would not make a change suggested by 15 people if it were possible to do so.

"What are we supposed to do with the comments?" she said.

"We've addressed their concerns in other plans," Vogel said.

"Our charge is not to look at what's best for W-40 (Stonemill Farms south in Woodbury) but to look at what's best for the district as a whole," said Phil Kuemmel, task force member and athletic director for the south half of the district.

"Then why are we even meeting tonight?" Dohrmann said.

If one group of parents who attended the oversight committee meeting succeeds in getting their area changed, it might affect parents who didn't attend because they felt the suggested plans did not negatively affect them, Schmitz said.

Some parents did not attend the oversight meeting because they had school conferences on the same night, Dohrmann said.

In the Red and Blue plans, St. Paul Park students would go to East Ridge, but not in the White Plan.

"It's not fair to St. Paul Park to consider them a 'balancing factor,'" said Tarek Tomes, task force member.

"Balancing factors" include the distribution of students from all the cities, ethnicity and those who receive free and reduced-price lunches, Vogel said.

Some St. Paul Park parents, by e-mail and petition, said they resent being labeled as a low-income area that would help balance the economics of the East Ridge student population.

Some Cottage Grove parents said plans would raise the current level of students at Park High School receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

"Given the criteria, you've done a good job," said Tom Nelson, superintendent, at the final meeting of the high school task to consider oversight comments.

Some comments made during the task force and oversight process "have been disrespectful of some parts of our community," he said.

"We're going to have three very good high schools," he said.

If a class is being offered at one high school and not another, students will be allowed to travel from their home school to take the class, he said.

"We talked about Woodbury and Cottage Grove students going to school together," Nelson said, during 65 meetings he attended before the election.

Information about the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches might have been misinterpreted, he said.

Red and Blue plans have from 200 to 250 students from Cottage Grove going to East Ridge. The White Plan puts 450 Cottage Grove kids at East Ridge, he said.

The areas then that can go to East Ridge are St. Paul Park, the west edge of the district in the Cottage Grove Elementary School attendance area and East Draw area. "Any way you slice, dice or chop it, two of them have to go to East Ridge," Vogel said.

Oversight comments said the drive to East Ridge from St. Paul Park is farther than it is to Park.

The distance from Oltman Junior High School in St. Paul Park to East Ridge, by the most logical route according the district's transportation department, is 5.9 miles and 3.2 miles to Park.

Judy Spooner can be reached at

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that students in the Wedgewood North subdivision in Woodbury would go to Woodbury High School in the Red Plan (Plan A). The plan was changed so that they would go to East Ridge High School under that plan.

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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