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'Treat our children fairly'

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news Woodbury, 55125
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Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

[Editor's note: This is the third in a series of features highlighting the impact of the new school boundary proposals on neighborhoods around Woodbury. E-mail lernewein@woodburybulletin.com if you would like your neighborhood story to be told.]

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"Our school is ground zero. The change is on the backs of the students at Middleton, and our children bear the brunt of it."

These are the words of Ann Smith, whose 10-year-old son currently attends Middleton Elementary School.

Under the red plan -- one of the proposals which will be considered by the school board in the renegotiation of school boundaries -- however, her son would be sent to Royal Oaks Elementary, and indeed half the population at Middleton could shift.

And for those reasons, say Smith and her fellow residents in the Brighton's Landing neighborhood, they are supporting the white plan.

The white plan would ensure that area W27 -- better known as Brighton's Landing -- sticks with the Colby Lake and Hidden Lake neighborhoods, where many of the kids have friends, their parents say, and children continue to attend Middleton at elementary level and then feed into Lake Middle School, as it will then be known.

"In the red plan, they would be ripping us apart from Colby Lake and Hidden Lake, and we are very much a part of those neighborhoods," says mom Dana Misner, who has been a president of Middleton's PTA for two years and vice president for a further two years.

Sean Smith, Ann's husband, points to enrollment figures released as part of the school boundary review process, which suggest that half of the total student population at Middleton would change if the red plan was adopted.

And that, say the parents of Brighton's Landing, is unacceptable.

"That means that half the kids who are there one year won't be there the next year," explained Ron Reuter, who is also involved with the PTA.

Not only that, but under the red plan, kids who currently walk to Lake Junior High from home would, in future, have to be bused to Woodbury Middle School five miles away.

Brighton's Landing families say they are backing the white plan, because it affects the fewest children district-wide.

Under the red plan, 1,625 students across the district would end up switching schools. The blue plan moves 1,547 and the white shifts 735 kids.

"We would accept the blue or white plans, but we think the white is better because it meets more of the needs of the community at large," said Ann Smith.

"The white plan factors in a little bit of extra growth because it doesn't put schools at capacity right away."

The residents of Brighton's Landing say one of their main reasons for opposition to the red plan is its under-use of Bailey Elementary, which they say would be at about 50 percent capacity.

"I think, quite honestly, there's a sense of hopelessness, because it's out of our control," said Sean Smith.

"We are hoping that the school district makes good judgments and considers the fairness of the process, and we hope that everybody is treated fairly.

"That doesn't necessarily mean everyone will get what they want, but we just hope [the school board] makes a good decision because it could make a bad decision."

THE BACKGROUND

South Washington County School District 833 covers parts of four communities; Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul Park.

Owing to overcrowding at some of the schools, a decision was made to re-draw the school boundaries for K-12 grades.

The new boundaries will come into force in fall 2009, to coincide with the opening of the new East Ridge High School.

The plan will also see the conversion of the district's four junior highs into middle schools, with each of the high schools eventually taking grades nine through 12.

Task forces have drawn up three potential plans for the new boundaries.

The school board will decide which of the plans -- red, white or blue -- to choose in April.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

• Now: High School Task Force has sent three plans to the oversight committee for consideration on March 25.

• April 10: The three K-12 plans will be presented to the school board.

• April 12: Community meeting to discuss the plans at Lake Junior High, 9-11 a.m.

• April 15: Community meeting to discuss the plans at Woodbury Junior High, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

• April 24: School board makes its decision on new school boundaries.

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