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Crosswinds decision near

Crosswinds School, in the East Metro Integration District, is located on Weir Drive near the Tamarack Road, I-494 Interchange in Woodbury with 65 students from School District 833 attending.

Those expecting a hint about the future of Crosswinds School in Woodbury were disappointed after a meeting last week of the East Metro Integration District board of directors.

Ahead of its expected Jan. 23 decision about Crosswinds' future, the board met to discuss recent public hearings on proposals to close Harambee school in Maplewood for kindergarten through fifth grade and Crosswinds school, located near Interstate 494 and Tamarack Road, for grades 6-10.

The EMID board has already informally agreed to turn Harambee over to Roseville Area Schools that will phase out EMID's program.

Determining Crosswinds' fate has proved to be more difficult.

South Washington County Schools has offered to take over the school but said it could not economically continue the current integration program. The 600-student school has slightly more than 300 students on a year-round schedule.

If EMID can't make the program work, neither could South Washington County Schools, District 833 officials argued.

Crosswinds parents want the Perpich Center for the Arts in Golden Valley, a state-operated school for grades 11-12 with emphasis on arts, music and dance, to take over Crosswinds.

But the Perpich center would need an additional appropriation from the Legislature of up to $3 million, in addition to its biannual appropriation, to take it over and continue operating the existing programs.

Intermediate School District 916 is also interested. Officials from 916 said it would need only part of the school and need a year to evaluate whether remodeling would be economical.

On Dec. 19, the EMID board said it might consider operating Crosswinds for another year so District 833, 916 and the Perpich center would firm up future use of the building.

But that choice was off the table when the EMID board met to discuss the situation Jan. 16.

District 833 officials have backed off their initial insistence that the district needs a year to plan for how to use the building and said it would take Crosswinds this year, but it needs a decision by April 1.

EMID Superintendent Janet Mohr said the upcoming decision would include closing Harambee and transferring ownership to Roseville. Crosswinds will also close, she said, unless the board choses the Perpich center and they get the $3 million, or it could choose School District 833.

Teachers, 29 at Harambee and 25 at Crosswinds, need time to ask for hearings on their jobs and find other jobs. Teachers have seniority in all of the member districts except Stillwater and Spring Lake Park, which have no students in EMID schools. April 1 is the deadline for notifying teachers, Mohr said.

The board would select a list of choices to take over Crosswinds. If the Perpich center is first in line and can't get the funding, by default with no further action by the EMID board, the school would be taken over by the second choice and then the third if that falls through, Mohr said.

EMID board member Jim Gelbmann, who also serves on the District 833 School Board,

said he doubts whether the Legislature, which hears policy legislation before making financial decisions, could consider the Perpich proposal by April 1. Gelbmann works in the Legislature.

EMID, which has 10 member districts including District 833, built the schools in 2003 to help mitigate the racial isolation of St. Paul Public Schools, which has a majority of students of color, and less diverse surrounding suburban districts.

To further integration, the state agreed to give money to the districts to run integration programs.

But the situation changed over 10 years and districts wanted the funding back, $600,000 in 833's case, to run their own integration programs.

Last year, member districts didn't contribute to EMID to run the schools. Using their fund balance and state aid only, the schools stayed open but EMID announced in November that it would close the schools.

Because they were built with state money, if the schools are transferred to another entity, and used for education, there would be no charge to the taker.

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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