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Stillwater school board votes to expand Brookview Elementary School

Woodbury parents and children got their first look at the new Brookview Elementary School during an open house just before the 2017-18 academic year began. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia

With a 4-3 vote, the Stillwater school board has decided to expand Brookview Elementary School in Woodbury.

After opening in 2017, the school is nearing its 450-student capacity as hundreds of single-family homes are likely to be built nearby within the next decade, according to Woodbury planning officials. The expansion will consist of adding eight classrooms, with an estimated cost of up to $5.5 million. The project will be funded through the district's lease levy.

The estimated tax impact for property owners ranges from $4.60 to $12.80, according to a report by district administrators presented to the school board Nov. 8.

The cost could be offset by the sale of district properties, including the Washington School and the pending sale of the Marine Elementary School, according to the report.

In a presentation to the board, Woodbury housing and economic development coordinator Karl Batalden explained that once city leaders implement their new comprehensive land-use plan, development of up to 185-324 homes east and northeast of the school could begin as early as 2019. Completion of the neighborhoods could take about three to five years, he said.

"The development community wants badly to be developing near Brookview," Batalden said.

Uncertainty over exactly how many students will come to the area and when was one of the main discussion points by the board.

Directors Sarah Stivland, Mike Ptacek and Shelley Pearson argued that establishing a long-term facilities plan would allow the board to best handle increased development in the southern part of the district.

"This addition, in my opinion, is not enough. We're going to need more. We need to look at adding a building somewhere ... between Lake Elmo and Brookview," Stivland said. "If we knew 200 students were coming next year, we would be talking about something much different."

"Tonight's information confirmed where I was at. I think we have time. I'm not opposed to (adding to) Brookview either, but I want that question to be part of the long-range plan," said director Shelley Pearson. "I'm nervous that if we're going to have 200 kids above that, what are we going to do then?"

Other directors, including George Hoeppner and Paula O'Loughlin said they agreed for the need of a long-term plan but also wanted to address the likely development near the school as soon as possible.

Doing so would avoid increased construction costs in future years, Hoeppner said.

"By voting yes, I'm voting no to a boundary change. I'm voting no to the potential of increase in construction cost," said director Jennifer Pelletier, adding she's heard from Brookview staff and community members in support of the vote. "This is a first step."

"I look at it from the point of view of a car that has a flat tire. Brookview has a flat tire right now. Do we want to wait until we have two flat tires before we fix either one of them? Let's deal with the problem facing us right now," said director Don Hovland.

Ahead of the vote, Superintendent Denise Pontrelli said she "100 percent" agrees with determining a long-term facilities plan in addition to expanding the school.

"We know the growth is coming, the question is when," she said.