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District hosts public forums

If a third high school is part of this fall's District 833 referendum for more space, where would it be and who would go there?

Those were among the key questions residents asked in last week's public forum held at Lake Junior High School in Woodbury.

The last of four meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, April 24, at Oltman Junior High School in St. Paul Park.

A third high school is one of the choices facing the District 833 School Board. It will hear more public comment on space issues May 11 with a final decision expected May 25.

In addition to a third high school, the board will consider an alternative school with grades seven to 12, plus building two additional elementary schools.

There are two sites in Woodbury and two in Cottage Grove near the border between the two cities under consideration for a third high school, said Supt. Tom Nelson. Students from both communities would attend high schools based on new high school attendance boundaries.

"What city would they root for?" asked one resident at last week's forum.

"They would root for the third high school," said Nelson, adding Rochester has three high schools.

A new high school needs 80 to 100 acres, according to the Minnesota Department of Education, with grade schools needing about 20 acres.

It would cost more to find three sites for the alternate proposal than for one high school site, he said.

The third high school package, including two additions to existing junior highs, would cost $92 million. The second package, including an alternative secondary school and two elementaries, would cost $87 million.

A skeptical resident asked if the cost of a new high school includes everything. The cost includes the building, planning, desks, books and everything to open the front door, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for facilities.

The need for new schools should continue, with growth expected at about 1 percent per year through 2030, Nelson said, citing the district's demographic consultant.

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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