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Parental pleas over plans

[Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles on neighborhoods that could be affected by District 833 school boundary changes.]

It's a hypothetical line on a potential draft plan. But that one little line has divided a neighborhood and could split childhood friends.

That's the message from the parents of Stonemill Farms in Woodbury, who say their children could lose out in the drawing up of new school boundaries.

They say they are already suffering under the current boundaries, but warn education officials not to make matters worse.

"My kids get bused past four schools and go to the fifth school," explained Marshal Urbanz, who lives on Walden Drive in Stonemill Farms, but sees two of his children sent to Bailey Elementary School more than five miles away.

That's despite the family's proximity to Liberty Ridge Elementary School, which lies about a mile from their home.

But Liberty Ridge is oversubscribed, and with all the development taking place on the east of the school district in Woodbury, the school board has been forced to act.

Currently, the Stonemill Farms neighborhood is divided into two halves -- north and south -- by a line which runs along Lake Road.

Those who live north of the line attend Liberty Ridge; those who live south are sent five miles away to Bailey.

"The kids play in the neighborhood together all summer long," said Urbanz. "We see the kids grow in the community and develop friends and they start to do that over the summer.

"But at the end of the summer, that all ends when they have to move away from their friends in the neighborhood [to go to school]."

It's an anomaly which affects only about 50 families at present, but Urbanz says that under future development plans, up to 250 families could face the same situation if the dividing line isn't moved to allow kids south of Lake Road to attend Liberty Ridge.

Attendance boundaries are being renegotiated for all elementary, middle school and high schools in South Washington County School District. Three draft plans have been drawn up: the red plan, the white plan and the blue plan, each proposing slightly different feeder areas for schools.

The new boundaries will come into force to coincide with the opening of East Ridge High School in Woodbury in fall 2009.

And the great fear of the parents of Stonemill Farms is that the white plan will be chosen.

Under that option, Urbanz and his neighbors would see their children continue to attend Bailey Elementary School, but then sent to Cottage Grove Middle School once they reach sixth grade. Most other children at Bailey would attend Woodbury Middle School under the white plan.

"There's my daughter, Maddie, who's nine and there's one other girl in her grade in this neighborhood," said Urbanz.

"So the white plan separates all the kids once again and send them to Cottage Grove [Middle School].

"In a school of 1,320 kids, my daughter will be there with one friend. Why do that? It doesn't make any sense to separate her, not only from our community, but also from all her elementary friends who will be going to Woodbury."

The 50 families from the southern part of Stonemill Farms will be crossing their fingers for the red plan when a final decision is made.