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School District 833 may split from EMID

South Washington County Schools may exit the East Metro Integration District, a collaborative that provides racially integrated programs and curriculum.

The District 833 School Board is expected to serve notice on Dec. 5 that it plans to leave EMID, the 10-member group that previously operated the Crosswinds and Harambee schools and continues to offer programs promoting racial integration and multi-cultural learning.

Superintendent Keith Jacobus said the district has benefitted from its relationship with EMID, but state law and rules regarding integration are changing to put more focus on narrowing the academic achievement gap. That gives District 833 an opportunity to reassess its own integration plan, he said.

EMID, which is governed by a joint-powers board with representatives from the 10 participating districts, requires about a 17-month advance notice from a district that intends to withdraw.

“We simply want the flexibility to study our options over the next 17 months,” Jacobus said.

District 833 students and staff take part in integration programs operated by the district or, in some cases, supported by EMID. Those programs include AVID, a near-districtwide initiative to help students become prepared for college or a career; Be the Dream, a college and career readiness program at Woodbury High School; and Wolfriders, a college and career readiness initiative at Park High School. EMID also provides training to teachers and multicultural curriculum to schools.

“Being part of that collaborative has been nothing but positive,” said Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education. But he said it is logical for the district to notify EMID that it may withdraw and then decide how best to move forward.

School Board member Jim Gelbmann, who is District 833’s EMID representative, proposed the split. He said it would be prudent to give notice to EMID and consider alternatives.

State law requires any school district that borders a district considered racially isolated to belong to an integration collaborative. District 833 borders St. Paul Public Schools, which is part of EMID.

It’s not clear where District 833 would go. The district also borders the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale District, which is considered racially isolated. That district is in an integration collaborative with Mahtomedi, but they have not indicated they would include South Washington County Schools.

“That’s the key, that’s the big unknown,” Gelbmann said.

There could be a financial impact to backing out of EMID. South Washington County Schools receives $2.5 million annually in state integration funding, based on a per-pupil formula. It pays $600,000 to EMID; that used to be put toward the operation of Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School in Woodbury and the Harambee Elementary School in Maplewood. Now, after EMID stopped operating those schools, the money District 833 sends to EMID is used for other integration programming. However, Gelbmann said few District 833 students and teachers use those programs.

District 833 uses the remaining $1.9 million of its annual integration money for its own programs, including AVID.

“We’re trying to look at ways to maximize the revenue that we get to have the most investment out of it for our students,” said Luis Saenz, district director of educational equity and integration.

District 833 only receives integration revenue because it is in an integration collaborative.

School Board Chairman Ron Kath said he supports giving EMID notice that the district plans to withdraw.

“It opens a lot of different avenues for us to take a look at, and I think we should be doing that with all of our programming,” Kath said.

The step away from the collaborative comes after South Washington County Schools earlier this year tried to acquire EMID’s Crosswinds school building to accommodate a growing student population in District 833. Its bid was beat out by a proposal from Perpich Center for the Arts, which is continuing the Crosswinds curriculum, something District 833 did not plan to do.

“It didn’t factor into my reason for encouraging Keith (Jacobus) to open up this option for us,” Gelbmann said of the Crosswinds issue.

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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