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School District 833 to expand Next Step program

District 833’s growing Next Step transition program for students with disabilities will take another step forward when it expands to Woodbury for more space.

Next Step is for students from 18 to 21 who have graduated from Park, Woodbury or East Ridge high schools but need additional help to develop job skills for employment and independent living skills.

More space is needed and the current site, in the former MGM Liquor store building in Cottage Grove, cannot  be expanded. Students who want to enter the program are currently being sent to Intermediate School District 916 with tuition paid by District 833.

It’s to the district’s advantage to expand and bring those students back to the district, said Jeff Jorgensen, South Washington County Schools special education director.

Next Step will expand to Valley Creek Mall, near Interstate 494 and Valley Creek Road, and occupy the former Snyder’s Drug Store space, Jorgensen said. It’s nearly 6,000 square feet of space.

School District 833 is also adding Next Step services for students ages 14 to 17. Twenty-five additional students will be in the program next year.

The Woodbury location will be for the growth of a similar program to what is offered in Cottage Grove.

Including the “build out,” to made the space ready for the program, the first year of the 10-year lease is $83,940 and the second year is $143,895.

State aid for the students is $225,000, “more than enough” to cover the cost, Jorgensen said.

The additional cost for furniture and technology for the program is $68,400. That cost and expenses connected with the program will be paid by the district’s lease levy, Jorgensen told the District 833 School Board. The board is expected to approve the plan in September.

The Goodwill/Easter Seals Program, which employs and trains 15 District 833 disabled students, is adding another 15 positions, according to Jorgensen.

There is an area in back of the mall where students can be dropped off and picked up.

The door that opens to the mall hallway and retail area will be locked and have a key card entry.

Having a site, which is centrally located for the three high schools, that opens to the mall provides a pleasant entry for prospective employers to visit the site, Jorgensen said.

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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