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833 board hears from parents supporting Red and White plans

District 833 parents supporting Red and White plans for elementary and middle school attendance boundaries showed up in force at the second of four hearings before school board members on Tuesday, April 15, at Woodbury Junior High School.

Woodbury parents from Stonemill Farms and Bailey's Arbor who support the Red Plan dominated the hearing, along with those living in Brighton's Landing who want the board to pick the White Plan.

More than 100 people attended the hearing but none spoke on behalf of the Blue Plan.

The three plans, along with three others for high school boundaries, were developed over the past five months by elementary, middle school and high school task forces for changes that will go into effect in the 2009-2010 school year.

Following the lead of parents from Stonemill Farms and Bailey's Arbor who wore red to the first hearing in support of the Red Plan, Brighton's Landing parents wore white to support their preferred plan.

Parents wearing red are opposed to the White Plan because it would send their students to Cottage Grove Middle School. In other plans, their students would not attend the same high school.

With their children currently attending Bailey Elementary School, they want to move to Liberty Ridge Elementary School, which is close to their homes.

While the White Plan makes the fewest changes, Marc Drummond, a Bailey's Arbor resident, urged board members to look beyond plans, such as the White Plan, that only offer short-term solutions.

The Red Plan disrupts the most families, according to John Stokes, a Brighton's Landing resident.

Students from Brighton's Landing currently walk to Middleton Elementary School. Under the White Plan, they would be bused to Royal Oaks in the attempt to shift students to schools in the west.

Students are "threatened to be bused," Stokes said, with the development "carved out and separated."

"The community has dedicated itself to Middleton," he said. "Don't destroy Brighton's Landing."

Stacey Ko, Bailey's Arbor, said her community would lose continuity under the White Plan.

"Any school in Woodbury" is preferred to sending kids to middle school in Cottage Grove "where they would be "alone," said Michele Goldstein, Baileys Arbor.

Molly Strande, said Stonemill Farms has a "strong sense of community-based living."

It's important, she said, that kids from Stonemill be kept together in elementary, middle and high school. School board decisions should not be based on who has lived in Woodbury the longest.

At the first public hearing, held Saturday, April 12, at Lake Junior High School, testimony included assertions that potential home buyers in Stonemill Farms are suspending final decisions until boundaries are decided in their favor did not set well with Leslie Graupmann, a Brighton's Landing resident. The board's decision should not be based "on the profit margin for the building community," she said.

"We didn't just move here a year ago," said Jack Stokes, Brighton's Landing, in support of the White Plan.

"We've heard a lot about kids that walk who are going to be bused," said Jim Trollen, who lives in Bailey's Arbor, adding that those parents have a valid point but changing from walking to busing is not as much of an impact as "taking them out of their community."

Will Stefani, a sixth-grader, said he is nervous about going to middle school but that the prospect of going to school in Cottage Grove makes it worse.

Heather Brooks Stefani, Will's mother and a Bailey's Arbor resident, said she was raised in Woodbury. Going to a school out of the community would negatively impact Will, she said.

"Look at all the students, not just the walkers," said Jim LaValle, Stonemill Farms. "Send us to Woodbury High School along with the rest of our neighbors, or to East Ridge."

Mark Mahowald, living on the west edge of Woodbury, objects to being included in the Newport Elementary School and Oltman Middle School in St. Paul Park in the Red Plan.

"My life is in Woodbury," he said, adding that this area might have been overlooked in drawing up plans because there are few children. "Leave our children with people they know," he said.

Attendance boundary changes are being driven by opening a new high school and changes in grade configuration with existing junior highs being converted to middle schools for grades six, seven and eight leaving elementary schools with kindergarten through fifth-grades.

Also, two-thirds of the district's population is east of Radio Drive.

There are five schools on the west side of Radio Drive and two on the east side. Schools in the east are near capacity and those in the east are underused, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations and boundary process facilitator.

Two more hearings are planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at Oltman Junior High School and Monday, April 21, at Cottage Grove Junior High School.