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Crosswinds might be 'mothballed' as session ends without decision on school's future

Current and former students rallied Thursday, May 16, outside of Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School in an effort to keep the school's integration program alive. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

The future of Crosswinds Arts and Sciences School is no more certain now than in February, when lawmakers first considered a bill addressing the Woodbury school's future.

The session ended at midnight Monday, May 20, without a final decision on legislation that sought to preserve Crosswinds' integration model by conveying the building to either District 833 or the state's Perpich Center for the Arts.

Exactly what is to come of the building - which will see students from the year-round program pass through its doors until the end of July - is unclear, but without an owner granted for the building, one Woodbury lawmaker suspected its future is bleak.

"It will be mothballed," Democratic Rep. JoAnn Ward said Monday, just hours before legislators adjourned the 2013 session.

The school for grades 6-10 has flown under the banner of the East Metro Integration District (EMID) since it opened in 2001, but EMID has since announced it can no longer fund Crosswinds or its sister program, Harambee, for grades K-5 in Roseville. That announcement set into motion legislation aimed at keeping the building open through District 833 or Perpich.

Ward said she was "feeling quite numb" after seeing the bill, which was included in unsuccessful House bonding legislation, fail to gain wider traction. She said the Crosswinds bill met resistance in the Senate from Sens. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, and Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury.

"The House encountered unwilling partners," Ward said.

Sieben said she worked with Kent, Rep. Dan Schoen of St. Paul Park and Rep. Denny McNamara of Hastings "to bring the concerns of the South Washington County School District to the discussions."

"While there was no solution that was agreeable to all interested parties, I believe discussions will continue and I am hopeful we will find a solution that is in the best interests of students," Sieben said.

Kent did not respond to a message left Monday evening, but last week reiterated her concern that the Crosswinds bill's financial component remained too tenuous if the building ended up being conveyed to the state's Perpich program.

"My concerns with the Perpich proposal for Crosswinds is it leaves too many unanswered fiscal questions," she said. "I'm not satisfied that the state will not be constantly having to provide funds for Crosswinds."

Kent said she backed District 833's position.

A District 833 committee last month suggested four possible uses for the Crosswinds building. The leading two options were to move the district's Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion school to Crosswinds, or to shuffle Woodbury Elementary School students to Crosswinds and use the Woodbury Elementary building for Nuevas Fronteras, among other building changes. The other two options were to create a choice middle school at Crosswinds or make it a fifth traditional middle school.

"I don't support any resolution that will take resources away from the students of District 833, or any of my school districts," Kent said.

Ward said she will be holding talks with state's education department to discuss the future of the building.

Session's end brought a seeming finality -- if not closure -- to the school and its supporters. Parents and teachers joined current and former students last week at the school, where they rallied in support of Crosswinds.

"This school is worth preserving because it nurtures virtues in students that I think will get them to be global citizens," said 10th grade student Nate Celeste.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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