A new beginning at Crosswinds
There was more than the usual level of back-to-class excitement at one Woodbury school.
Seeing students on the first day of school at Crosswinds Arts and Science School was an exhilarating experience for staff, said Crosswinds Principal Carlondrea Hines.
"It was very humbling knowing that we do have a lot of students that are returning and a lot of students that are coming in new," she said. "It was amazing to see the smiles on their faces that they are able to continue their education here at Crosswinds."
The past year has been tumultuous for the grade 6-10 school: Its future was uncertain after lawmakers declined to act on legislation that looked to keep the building open after the East Metro Integration District (EMID) announced it could no longer financially support Crosswinds.
The Perpich Center for Arts Education has since assumed control of operations at the school.
Crosswinds will be taking on a slightly different look this school year given that it will now be under the leadership of the Perpich Center.
A long road
It was almost a year ago that EMID, which oversaw Crosswinds, announced that it would no longer be able to keep the building open.
"A lot of parents had such a strong emotional connection to the school, that watching the potential of closing the school was emotionally draining and challenging and frustrating," Crosswinds parent and Woodbury resident Kelly DeBrine said. "The value of that school is so high in the hearts and minds of people that nothing could stop us from pushing forward."
EMID School Board decided to ask other education entities for proposals to take over the school and received offers from both District 833 and Perpich Center for Arts Education.
Whereas District 833 proposed changes to Crosswinds' curriculum, Perpich vowed to keep the curriculum the same.
"As a state agency we are responsible for arts education," said Sue Mackert, executive director of Perpich. "It really was our responsibility to step to the plate when EMID asked us to do so.
"It was a natural fit for our mission."
EMID ultimately turned over management of Crosswinds for one year to Perpich after lawmakers adjourned the legislative session without a decision on the school.
"One of the reasons we were so passionate about Crosswinds was not only to maintain the passion of the school of intentional integration, but also it has a state asset to use it as a model for teaching teachers," Mackert said. "The school will be used as a wonderful incubator while we develop professional development for teachers."
There are no plans for Crosswinds to be a feeder program for Perpich's arts high school.
Even though Crosswinds will now be under the governance of Perpich, the core focus and curriculum of Crosswinds will continue, Hines said.
"Our focus will still be on diversity with intentional integration through the curriculum focusing on the arts and sciences," she said, "but, our arts area will be enhanced."
Hines, who also serves as the principal at the Perpich school, said the beginning of the year will focus on making students feel comfortable.
"We will be making sure that all students understand that they are part of the community," she said. "As a community we all come with our differences, but we all are accepting of those differences."
Crosswinds parent Holly Ingersol, of St. Paul, said she is ecstatic that the school is able to remain open.
"My son was in a good public school but he didn't have that spark - he is a unique, different type of learner," she said. "Last year was a total turn around for him."
Perpich's governance won't go completely unnoticed, however. There will be several new offerings at the school this year, specifically in the arts.
That includes an increased focus on multimedia arts as well as an enhanced music program, Hines said.
Crosswinds previously had an orchestra and band program, but this year a choir program will be added.
Additionally, a new course offering, "Mainstage," will allow students to be involved in music no matter the instrument.
"Perpich tends to cater to students who don't necessarily gravitate towards those band or string instruments," Crosswinds music teacher Aaron Hilden said.
Mainstage will allow students to study whatever type of music interests them, whether that is composition, electronic music, music engineering or even garage bands.
"Students still need that developmental stage of learning about music," Hilden said, "so they shouldn't be limited by experience or the instrument that they choose to play."
Hilden, who came from Perpich to Crosswinds, said he is also hoping to blend the orchestra and band programs even more.
"The ensembles don't exist to create a program, the ensembles exist to create musicians," he said. "I'm excited to see how the students respond to some of these new ideas."
Ingersoll said she is looking forward to the additions that Perpich is bringing to Crosswinds.
"Just having Perpich's knowledge and know-how behind them is just a wonderful facet for Crosswinds," she said.
"I always thought Perpich was a perfect solution to a very difficult challenge," she said. "Being a state agency, their ability to help promote the idea of integration and demonstrate how it can be done well is the best solution that could have come out of this whole affair."
Other opportunities that Hines would like to see in the future at Crosswinds, under Perpich, would be increased community service opportunities, increased arts integration in the classroom, opportunities for Perpich staff to participate in artist residency and collaboration between the two schools.
"We will be that model school that all schools will want to emulate in terms of closing that achievement gap," Hines said. "Students will have the ability to show their mastery in other forms, rather than the paper and the pencil."
Perpich still has more work to do before it ramps up another effort to permanently acquire Crosswinds, which Mackert said she hopes to accomplish this legislative session.
"We have absolutely every intention to make sure that it continues," she said.
Ingersoll said she is greatly looking forward to Crosswinds' future.
"I'm so grateful that Crosswinds is open," she said, "and I'm so grateful that they are open under Perpich."