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District holds off on changing attendance boundaries at Pine Hill Elementary

Student attendance boundaries for Grey Cloud, Crestview, Armstrong, and Hillside elementaries are about to change.

Options to define elementary attendance boundaries in the southern half of South Washington County Schools have been narrowed to two somewhat similar choices.

A task force eliminated one option provided by District 833 administration and recommended not changing Pine Hill Elementary's boundaries until enrollment has met its limit.

The other two options — created in anticipation of meeting what district officials call the functional capacity and design capacity of each school — will be presented at community meetings Tuesday and Thursday, Jan. 10 and Jan. 12, at Park High School.

Bottom line: Grey Cloud and Pine Hill elementaries are positioned in growth areas of Cottage Grove, which will cause the schools to experience overcrowding issues by 2018-19. Grey Cloud is projected to vastly exceed its capacity, while Pine Hill might just barely meet or exceed its capacity. The task force suggested leaving Pine Hill Elementary's boundaries as-is until residential development occurs, presumably bumping up the student population.

"Let's wait and see how development occurs," said Mike Vogel, directors of facilities and construction.

Armstrong, Crestview and Hillside elementaries are expected to have room for students in 2018-19, while Pullman and Cottage Grove elementaries won't be filling up anytime soon, according to a District 833 revision of the City of Cottage Grove's flawed projections for housing starts.

Under one plan, 183 students would switch boundary schools. Under the other, the number affected would total 132.

Should development occur around Pine Hill Elementary, Vogel said, there are options that might be preferable to boundary changes: first, moving pre-kindergarten programs to another location to free up two classrooms; second, busing students in the new development to a different elementary school; and third, four classroom additions.

Classroom additions — maybe 3,200 to 3,300 square feet each — can cost as much as $300 a square foot, in "very ballpark numbers," Vogel said after the meeting.

District officials are most concerned about housing growth near Grey Cloud Elementary.

Areas of future growth would also be added to Hillside Elementary's boundaries, Vogel said.

A School Board decision might be recommended on Feb. 2, but not before residents get to weigh in.

"We do have two viable options. This is our time to be listening too. Now we need to listen to our community," School Board chairman Ron Kath said. "Keep in mind: For those 132, it's a change. Those parents of those 132 certainly will have some emotions to share with us."