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Next stop, school board

The District 833 School Board directive that Park, Woodbury and East Ridge high schools have students from all socio-economic levels in the district is bringing parents and residents of Cottage Grove and St. Paul Park into the process to determine new attendance boundaries.

After nearly four months, beginning with the elementary school task force in December, the parents who've been most vocal at meetings have been from Woodbury, since that's where the elementary and middle school changes have the greatest effect.

The elementary school task force gave red, white and blue plans to the middle school task force. From there, a 16-member high school task force took over with the charge of dividing students from four middle schools into three high schools beginning in the fall of 2009 when East Ridge High School opens.

Changes in the south half of the district center around relieving overcrowding at Cottage Grove Elementary School by sending students in the eastern part of its current boundary to Grey Cloud Elementary School.

High school plans are similar in that the East Ridge attendance area runs across the middle area of the district including some of the northern area of Cottage Grove and the southern edge of Woodbury.

With the attendance boundaries largely completed, St. Paul Park students, now seventh-graders, who will enter ninth grade in 2009 are slated to attend East Ridge High School in the Red and Blue plans.

Some St. Paul Park parents attended the oversight meeting, March 18, where high school plans were reviewed and written comments collected.

Some wrote that they don't want their children to go to East Ridge. They prefer that they go to Park High School. Further, they resent being included in the East Ridge plan to bring socio-economic balance to the new school.

Cottage Grove parents who attended the meeting are concerned that the number of low-income students qualifying for free and reduced lunch prices would increase at Park.

Some parents said their main concern is that increased numbers of low-income students would lower test scores.

Plans will be presented to the school board on Thursday, April 10. However, it will only take testimony from the public at four hearings.

Residents can attend any or all of the hearings including those that are not being held in their communities, said Marsha Adou, school board member, at the March 20 school board meeting.

Hearings will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., Saturday, April 12 at Lake Junior High School; and from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, at Woodbury Junior High School, Thursday, April 17, at Oltman Junior High School and Monday, April 21 at Cottage Grove Junior High School.

The board will discuss the plans at the April 24 meeting.

District 833 Superintendent Tom Nelson said at the March 18 meeting the school board might hold a special workshop meeting in May before making a final decision.