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Jacobus speaks to Woodbury Elementary families about reshuffling

Emotions ran high last week during a parent meeting at Woodbury Elementary over a proposed plan to move the school to Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School.

District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus spoke with parents on Feb. 25.

"I know there are some emotions involved with this," Jacobus said. "I want you to know that anything that is said is not lost."

The Perpich Center for Arts Education has priority over acquiring the Crosswinds building, but must receive additional state funding by April 1 in order to take over the property. If Perpich does not receive the funding it needs to operate in the Crosswinds facility, South Washington County Schools will get the building.

The plan

If District 833 should acquire Crosswinds, the tentative plan is to move Woodbury Elementary students to Crosswinds. Students at the Nuevas Fronteras Spanish immersion program, currently housed at Crestview Elementary, would be moved to the current Woodbury Elementary building.

"Everything will be going together," Jacobus said. "We won't be looking at splitting things up."

At the Crosswinds building, District 833 would build a playground, fence in the neighboring wetlands and lower bathroom fixtures, Jacobus said.

The renovations will cost about $250,000 or so.

The plan also includes building a "connecting addition" that links Woodbury Elementary to the adjacent Woodbury Middle School, with no date set for that construction.

The district also would move the middle-school level Spanish immersion program from Cottage Grove Middle School to the Woodbury elementary/middle school campus.

Getting parents involved

Even though it's unclear whether or not Crosswinds will actually come to District 833, Jacobus said he felt it was important to get parents involved early on.

"We don't even know if the building is going to come to us," he said. "We're moving along as if the building is coming to us because we can't wait."

Woodbury Elementary went through a similar process in 2010 when there was talk of moving Spanish immersion to Woodbury Elementary and closing the school altogether.

"I know you've been through this before," he said. "I want to start this process in a little different way."

Several parents said they didn't have any trust in the plan or the administration based on the previous experiences.

Jacobus made a point of clarifying for parents that this plan stemmed from the need for more middle school space.

"It all came from an idea of how we can open up the middle school spaces," he said. "It doesn't come from where to put Spanish immersion."

During last week's meeting, Woodbury Elementary parents expressed a number of concerns about the reshuffling plan.

The primary concerns related to transportation and the open classroom model at the school.

In terms of transportation, parents voiced concerns over how students would be able to walk to school since the Crosswinds building sits on top of a hill and there currently are no sidewalks or trails.

Jacobus said transportation is still something that needs to be reviewed, but the most likely scenario will be that all students will have to be bussed.

Another concern expressed by many parents related to the open classroom model, where classrooms are split into "pods," which include multiple classrooms and don't have enclosed walls.

Several parents expressed concerns about security, noise levels and student focus in relation to the open classroom model.

"It's not out of the realm for open concepts to be used in elementary schools," Jacobus said. "We have the classroom space but they don't look exactly like our classrooms here."

Jacobus strongly urged parents to remember that nothing is set in stone yet.

District 833 will find out whether or not it will acquire Crosswinds on or after April 1, since that is the deadline given to Perpich to secure funding.

If Perpich doesn't secure the funding, the tentative proposal will then go to District 833 School Board in April for review.

"There's a lot of things we have to work through, so we're not going to get pushed into a decision," Jacobus said. "But we need you to be a partner as we move through."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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