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Liberty Ridge parents sound off on building proposal

Molly Strande hopes the plans to expand the kindergarten annex at Liberty Ridge Elementary School in Woodbury get approved.

Along with other parents in the Stonemill Farms development, she worked hard in 2008 to get all of the development into the school's attendance boundary so children would not be bussed to Bailey Elementary School.

Strande, who has a child entering kindergarten this fall, said it's hard for children to change schools. "I don't want to move," she said. "I love the school. I want my children to have a sense of community."

Lisa Lindahl, parent representative for the school's site team, said parents she's talked to also hope the plans will be approved.

Strande and Lindahl were among about 25 parents who attended a meeting held at the school on Jan. 17 to hear more information about the proposed expansion.

The school, opened in 2003, currently has about 900 students and the area is still developing, according to Mike Vogel, district assistant to the superintendent for facilities.

In the 2007-08 school year, the district leased space in a vacant shopping center across the street for kindergarten classrooms to free up space at the main campus.

But more kids are coming.

In Stonemill, 110 multiple-unit and 227 single-family homes have been approved to be built. Newland Homes plans to build 110 multiples and 135 single-family homes, according to Vogel.

Enrollment in the school has been closed to students outside and inside the district.

Two areas at the intersection of Lake Road and Cottage Grove Drive, where there is only one home as yet, have already been switched to the Middleton Elementary School attendance boundary.

In place of a current lease, the district is proposing to buy the 10,000-square-foot building and add 12,500 square feet, where footings already exist, for $4.5 million.

It would be paid for partly with a lease levy and with money left from the 2006 referendum used to build East Ridge High School. It would add approximately $3 a year to taxes on a $250,000 home, according to Vogel.

With approval from the School Board to proceed with planning, a purchase agreement is pending in early February, Vogel said.

Approval is also pending from the Minnesota Department of Education and the city of Woodbury.

The expanded facility, which would free up three rooms at the main campus, would house 220 kindergarteners and 4-year-olds in eight classrooms plus areas for a gym and cafeteria.

If not built, the district would face shifting homes in the Kingsfield, Highland Knoll and Oakwood developments to Middleton. Classes for 4-year-olds would be eliminated and all-day kindergarten classes would be limited.

With a growing enrollment in east Woodbury, the district, during attendance boundary discussions four years ago, considered creating an attendance boundary for Valley Crossing, a "choice" school owned jointly by 833, North St. Paul-Oakdale-Maplewood and Stillwater Area districts managed by Intermediate School District 916.

North St. Paul has 100 students at Valley Crossing and Stillwater sends 300 students from an attendance boundary it created to serve development abutting Woodbury.

District 833 sends 150 students to the school built for 900 students that has multi-age group classes.

In two years, the contract for Valley Crossing is up for renewal, according to Vogel.

Students could be sent to Bailey, but that school is in an area due to potentially serve 6,000 more homes, Vogel said.

Liberty Ridge's main campus could be expanded but that would put more pressure on core facilities such as the cafeteria and gyms.

In the past, temporary classrooms were added to schools but under Woodbury's regulations to have them attached and on foundations, the district would consider a permanent addition instead.

Fifth-graders can't be moved to either Woodbury or Lake middle schools because they are near capacity, Vogel said.

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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