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District 833 Crosswinds plan would move Nuevas Fronteras, shuffle Woodbury elementary students

District 833's tentative acquisition plan for the Crosswinds Arts and Science School building includes shuffling students at two other grade schools and building an addition to connect the Woodbury elementary and middle school buildings.

South Washington County Schools officials on Wednesday released an overview of their proposed use of the Crosswinds building in Woodbury, which they hope to acquire this spring.

The proposal was posted on the district's website to "counteract misinformation that has been distributed to the community," according to the statement.

The plan says that if District 833 obtains the Crosswinds school, it would:

-- Shift Woodbury Elementary School students to the nearby Crosswinds building

-- Move students in the Nuevas Fronteras Spanish immersion program housed at Crestview Elementary School in Cottage Grove to the Woodbury Elementary building, to alleviate overcrowding at Crestview Elementary.

Those changes would be in effect by this September, the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The plan also includes building a "connecting addition" that links Woodbury Elementary School to the adjacent Woodbury Middle School, with no date set for that construction.

The district also would move the middle-school level Spanish immersion program from Cottage Grove Middle School to the Woodbury elementary/middle school campus to provide more space for traditional programming at Cottage Grove Middle School. There is no date determined yet for that move.

The plan remains tentative because it is not clear whether the district will acquire the facility. School Board members also have not voted on the proposal.

District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus has met with district staff and is set to meet Monday with Woodbury Elementary parents. He will also meet separately with two parent groups on Feb. 27 at Crestview - the Crestview Parent Committee and the Nuevas Fronteras parent-teacher group.

South Washington County Schools wants to acquire the Crosswinds building near Tamarack Road and Interstate 494 in Woodbury. The school is operated by the East Metro Integration District, which is looking to unload that building and the Harambee school in northwest Maplewood because it cannot financially support them.

The Perpich Center for Arts Education has priority over acquiring the Crosswinds building, but must receive additional state funding by April 1 in order to take over the property. If Perpich does not receive funding it needs to operate in the Crosswinds facility, South Washington County Schools will get the building.

Crosswinds is located within the District 833 boundaries.

Acquiring the Crosswinds building would be at no cost to District 833 because it is a state-owned facility and would continue to be used for education.

A bill was introduced in the Legislature Monday calling for Perpich to acquire Crosswinds.

The bill calls for the school to be turned over to Perpich, and its EMID staff - barring administrators - to become state civil service employees through Perpich.

Sen. Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield, is chief author of the bill in the Senate. He said the legislation "has pretty good support" and added that he is confident it will be passed in time to meet the April 1 deadline.

"I think it can be done," Dahle said.

His legislative aide said fiscal estimates have been requested through the state's education department but are not yet prepared, though Dahle called the bill "budget neutral."

The bill was referred to the Senate's Education Committee.

Woodbury Sen. Susan Kent sits on the Senate Education Committee and represents Senate District 53, which includes the South Washington County School District. She called the Perpich bill "interesting," but said fiscal uncertainties surrounding the proposal leave questions.

"Until I get some assurances, I'm still really concerned about the costs of this," Kent said last week.

A companion bill in the House has 12 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Education Finance Committee.

No hearings for the Perpich bill have been announced so far in either chamber.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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