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Parents ask for income diversity at final attendance boundary hearing

The School District 833 School Board held its final hearing on the attendance boundary issue Monday, April 21, at Cottage Grove Junior High School. The board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 24 for a one-hour workshop with a decision expected during the following regular meeting.

Parents reflected many of the same concerns that were voiced at three previous hearings for attendance boundary changes that will go into effect in the fall of 2009 when East Ridge High School opens and ninth-graders are included.

At the same time, junior high schools will become middle schools and elementary schools will have grades kindergarten to five students.

Parents from Cottage Grove are concerned about Plan C, one of three plans to determine which students will go to Woodbury, Park and East Ridge.

Under Plan C, East Ridge would become "an elite school where the rich kids go," said Linda Schmidt, of Cottage Grove.

Park would be left with twice the number of kids receiving free and reduced-price lunches as in the other two schools, she said.

The school board, last summer, directed boundary task forces to construct high school boundaries that result in students from all three cities at East Ridge in addition to equal numbers on minority students and students from all socioeconomic levels.

Students receiving free and reduced-price lunches have lower test scores, have more discipline problems, watch too much television and are less likely to graduate, according to Schmidt.

"There is no greater indicator than the income of a family," Schmidt said.

Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations and boundary process facilitator, said at task force meetings, held before public hearings, that the number of students on subsidized lunches was computed based on elementary school numbers brought forward to high school.

The actual number at high schools is likely to be lower, he said.

"Free and reduced-price lunches are only an indicator," Vogel said.

Parents said they are concerned that number of kids being bused would increase in the proposed plans.

According to an analysis by district's transportation department, there would be little change in the cost of busing students from what is now being spent, according to Vogel.

Transportation said the Red Plan for elementary and middle schools and Plan C for high schools will cost "slightly" less money, according to Vogel.

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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