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Crosswinds to remain open

Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School in Woodbury and Harambee Community Cultures/Environment Science School in Maplewood will not be closed, but funding by the 10 school districts that support the two schools in the East Metro Integration District will be reduced.

Harambee, for kindergarten through fifth-grades opened in 2001 and Crosswinds, located on Wier Drive by the Tamarack Interchange with Interstate 494, opened in 2002 for grades six through 10. has a combined students population or more than 800 students.

The schools were built by EMID to foster integration between students in St. Paul, a racially isolated district, and those in surrounding districts.

Students from supporting districts attend, including 28 District 833 students at Harambee and 65 at Crosswinds. State aid for the students follows them to the integration schools.

Districts also contribute money, including $1 million from District 833's $2.4 million state money it receives for integration programs serving minority students. Sixty precent of the $1 million goes to support the schools

The amount of money contributed by member districts has been an issue since 2007, according to the superintendents who supported a proposal at a workshop meeting of the EMID School Board last week to close the schools.

While board members and superintendents agree that the schools' integration efforts have been successful, the amount of money spent is serving too few students.

Superintendents said closing the schools would allow EMID to continue and offer shared programs and more attention toward college readiness and pre-school.

A compromise proposal was also offered to allow the schools to stay open with the use of allocated money EMID has on hand and reduce the contributions by the districts by about 20 percent.

At Wednesday night's meeting, before an audience of parents and staff members at Crosswinds, the EMID board approved the compromise but left the percentage of district contributions open for the board to "develop a restructured funding process."

The board will meet Nov. 16 to take final action.

Board members cautioned that the Legislature is also forming a commission to study how integration money, the result of settlement after a threatened law suit by the NAACP, is distributed.

EMID might end up running the schools with state aid only said Kitty Grogins, representing Roseville Area Schools. "Funding will change, but we're not deciding that now," she said.

"A broader base of students would be served," said George Hoeppner, EMID vice-chair representing Stillwater Area Schools, if member districts reduced the amount of money supporting the two schools.

The two schools have a "wonderful environment" for integration, said Jim Gelbmann, school board member representing South Washington County Schools.

"I like choice," he said, "but this is an expensive choice."

District 833 can operate great schools for less money than is being spent for the EMID schools, he said.

EMID is spending $7,500 per student versus $6,200 in District 833, according to Superintendent Mark Porter.

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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