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Middle school feeder system won't work in 2009

Some Woodbury students could attend Cottage Grove Middle school and Newport Elementary School students could head to Oltman Middle School under plans created by a task force working on a new feeder system for fall of 2009.

No matter how the middle-school attendance boundary task force worked the numbers, it could not come up with plans for School District 833 to continue using a feeder system developed in 1995. That means in the future, groups of students who attend elementary school together won't necessarily stay together in middle school.

Now, elementary schools in Woodbury are sent, by school, to either Lake or Woodbury junior high. In Cottage Grove, schools are divided between Oltman and Cottage Grove junior highs.

The junior high schools will open as middle schools for grades six, seven and eight in the fall of 2009 when East Ridge, the district's third high school, opens.

At its Feb. 5 meeting, the task force attached a preliminary middle school plan to each of three boundary plans developed by the elementary school task force Jan. 15.

In the White Plan, city boundaries would be crossed for the first time with some students in east Woodbury attending Cottage Grove Middle School.

In two plans, Newport Elementary School, with parts of its current attendance area going elsewhere, would attend Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park.

The new boundary configurations will help relieve crowding in elementary schools, but it's a different story for the middle schools.

Even when students are divvied up among four middle schools, buildings will have near-capacity numbers of students.

The district will have to open an additional middle school by the 2014-2015 school year, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations.

The goal for the middle school task force is to reduce the number of students in Lake Middle School in Woodbury. If excess students were merely sent to Woodbury Middle School, it would also be crowded. The solution lies in sending some Woodbury students to middle schools in the south half of the district, Vogel said.

After the three elementary school boundary plans were finished, Vogel and the task force's coordinator, Dave Bernhardson, created nine middle school plans, three for each elementary school plan.

At the Feb. 5 task force meeting, members voted to choose one middle school boundary plan to go along with each elementary school boundary plan.

Task force member Norm Mead asked, why sending Newport kids to Oltman Middle School wouldn't be part of all the plans.

There was also concern that the number of students might be too low at Oltman in at least one plan.

"I don't want it to drive the discussions," Vogel said, but the district is considering offering Spanish Immersion classes in middle school. The first class of Spanish Immersion students will move to middle school in 2010, Bernhardson said.

In that case, there might be room for a program at Oltman Middle School.

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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