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District 833 moves past Crosswinds school acquisition attempt

Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School in Woodbury, which draws students from a wide area including south Washington County, may be operated by the Perpich Center for Arts Education in 2013-14. Bulletin file photo

A months-long courtship between South Washington County Schools and the Crosswinds school is officially over.

The district, which had expressed interest in taking over Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School building in Woodbury, has moved on to other long-term planning after it became clear the Crosswinds' current education program must continue at that building unless state laws are changed.

District 833 was interested in acquiring the building from the East Metro Integration District, of which it's a member, if there was flexibility to offer different programming there, South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

"All the way through as we tried to look at compromises, that wasn't an option," Jacobus said of District 833 using Crosswinds for other purposes. "And we can accept that."

Jacobus reiterated in an interview that District 833 never thought the Crosswinds inter-district, integration magnet school was a "bad program."

"With all the parameters that were there, it just wasn't fiscally workable for us in the long run to run the program," he said.

District 833 officials had identified possible uses for the Crosswinds site, including as a home to the Spanish immersion program or as the site of either a traditional or magnet middle school.

The Perpich Center for Arts Education appears poised to take over the Crosswinds program.

The Golden Valley-based Perpich Center is expected to make a pitch July 10 to assume operations and management of Crosswinds' magnet school for grades 6-10 beginning this fall. If the EMID board approves the plan, the school building near Interstate 494 and Tamarack Road would continue its curriculum for at least one more year. That would avoid the need to mothball the school building in 2013-14, as Crosswinds families feared in recent weeks when the school's future was less certain.

EMID Superintendent Janet Mohr said last week that only Perpich has expressed interest in operating Crosswinds with its current program.

State officials have indicated that without legislative action, the Crosswinds building must continue to be used for that purpose because of the $23.8 million in state-borrowed funds used to fund its construction.

EMID is comprised of nine suburban districts and the St. Paul Public Schools. The EMID board has sought to turn over operations of its Crosswinds and Harambee schools, citing the inability to continue funding them.

The EMID board last week voted to hand over operation of the Harambee school, which includes elementary grades, to the Roseville school district for the 2013-14 year. A decision on Harambee's future after next year will be decided after the 2014 legislative session, administrators said. The Legislature did not pass bills that dealt with the future use of Harambee and Crosswinds.

Roseville Superintendent John Thein said he hopes for a long-term relationship with Harambee.

EMID officials are working with Perpich administrators to draft a similar agreement for Crosswinds for the coming school year, Mohr said. That contract is expected to be before the EMID board at a July 10 special meeting.

Jacobus said District 833 would look at Crosswinds again if there was flexibility with how the building could be used, but for now will work on alternative plans to accommodate its own future enrollment grow.

"We're not negative about how things worked out," he said. "We tried to hang in there and look at compromises. Ultimately, it just wasn't going to work out."

South Washington County Schools will focus on planning for predicted population growth in Cottage Grove and Woodbury, Jacobus said.

That growth could create class space constraints, particularly at the middle school level.

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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