Independent School District 834 will change elementary school attendance limits to accommodate growth in the southern part of the district.
District staff presented the Stillwater area public school board with three options to choose from in a working session on November 4.
Since the council working session on November 4, the District Boundaries Committee has held community conversations on November 8 and 9. The committee received over 200 comments submitted online and approximately 20-30 residents participated in community conversations.
Mark Drommerhausen, Director of Operations, presented the results of these sessions to ISD 834 School Board on November 18. He recommended that the committee and the district select the option.
A. This option moves the fewest students. The board will vote on adoption at its next meeting on Thursday, December 8. Three themes emerged from the community engagement sessions.
One theme that emerged was the overhaul of the Legacy at North Star, Wildflower, and Village Preserve neighborhoods.
“These three in particular are the ones that are directly north of Lake Elmo Elementary School,” Drommerhausen said, “and northwest of Lake Elmo Avenue. The feedback we received from them was “our houses are very close to the school”.
The committee looked for ways to change things to keep these students in this elementary school, but found that there wasn’t a great way to make it work.
“In the end, the committee decided to stick with its original recommendation,” he said.
Another theme that emerged was to grant vested rights to next year’s fifth and eighth graders to keep them in their current schools. The committee recommended that this suggestion be approved.
Another aspect of the community’s contribution was the relocation of the Unidos Amigos program.
Another concern raised during these community conversations was about class size.
“There has been a lot of talk about transferring children to different schools, and as schools grow, class sizes will increase,” Drommerhausen said. “None of these moves have an impact on class size. This can have an impact on the number of teachers or the number of classrooms in a particular school, but it does not affect the size of the classes.
Class sizes are set according to a range determined by the school board.
According to the district’s website, Option A would displace about 200 students from Lake Elmo Elementary School by moving them to Brookview or Rutherford. Option A would move the southern portion of 32B north from Lake Elmo to Brookview and would move 29A, 29B and 30 (north of Highway 5) from Lake Elmo to Rutherford. Option A would have an impact on 379 students
The option defines the northern boundary of Elmo Lake as County Road 5 and County Road 14, or all of Stillwater Boulevard.
“Option A is our immediate need,” Drommerhausen said. “We have a need at Lake Elmo
(Elementary) where we need to move around 200 students for next year. This accomplishes this by moving the students north, some to Rutherford, others south, to Brookview.
According to the district’s website, Option B would impact more than 500 students by moving them from Andersen, Afton-Lakeland, Lake Elmo and Lily Lake. Option B would move the southern portion of 32B north of Elmo Lake to Brookview; relocate 29A, 29B and 30 (north of Highway 5) from Lake Elmo to Rutherford; move 21 from Lily Lake to Stonebridge; move 24 from Andersen to Lily Lake Move 26A from Andersen to Lily Lake; move 27A from Afton-Lakeland to Andersen; Move 28B from Lake Elmo to Andersen
“Option B makes it possible to move our spaces around the district a bit better,” said Drommerhausen.
It has the same three moves as Option A, but it distributes students evenly and makes more use of neighborhood space, Drommerhausen explained.
“This option has an impact on the most students,” said Drommerhausen,
Option C is a different option that moves more students than A, but fewer than C.
“In this option, our spaces are full at a nice location – with the exception of Rutherford, where Rutherford is down around 65% of (capacity),” Drommerhausen said.
Drommerhausen noted that while he is talking about moving large numbers of students, it’s important to remember the impact the decision will have.
“Right now we’re talking about numbers, but behind each of those numbers are students; behind each of these numbers are families; behind each of these numbers are school communities which, regardless of which option we choose A, B or C, student families and school communities will be impacted, ”said Drommerhausen. “Changing boundaries is not easy. “
Option C would also impact approximately 400 students by moving them from Lake Elmo, Lily Lake and Rutherford.
Option C would also move the southern portion of 32B north of Elmo Lake to Brookview. Move 29A, 29B and 30 (north of Highway 5) from Lake Elmo to Rutherford; move 21 from Lily Lake to Stonebridge; move 16C from Rutherford to Lily Lake; Relocation 17 from Rutherford to Lily Lake; move 18 from Rutherford to Lily Lake.
Alison Sherman was the council liaison for the District Boundaries Committee and attended both listening sessions.
“I feel bad that we’ve been here before,” Sherman said. “We had the same conversation when people very close to Brookview couldn’t attend right away.”
There are families who “can literally see” Lake Elmo Elementary School and will not attend.
“It’s a motivation for me to find long term solutions as a school board because we have the density and we can support the schools in this area and we have to do better,” Sherman said. “Now we have this decision that needs to be made for next year. I have heard many families say please be sensitive to the displacement of fewer children due to COVID. “
Sherman was concerned that Option A might not have enough movement, “but B is starting to get really wobbly, and we’re moving the kids in an inefficient way.”
Sherman asked that if the board approves A, could the board approve the next step of using parts of options B and C at a later date? She noted that there is no long-term solution, such as passing a facility bond.
While it is possible that this could happen, Drommerhausen replied that he would like a committee to review boundary changes again if necessary later, “but B could be a starting point for future boundary changes on the road”.
Board member Tina Riehle said she liked to move fewer students, but would still insist that the Spanish immersion program be moved to the primary school building in ‘Oak Park Heights.
“There are families who live around this building who cannot attend because they cannot move,” said Riehle. “Really, this is not a fair program for the whole district. I think it would be a very attractive program for this district to develop the program. “
Program relocation could ease stress on Lake Elmo and Oak-Land Middle elementary schools
School board member Alison Sherman asked if grandfathering fifth and eighth graders at their current school would cost more money due to transportation.
Drommerhausen replied that this would be the case as it would require doubling the bus lines.
Entering the discussion, Hockert expected there to be a push to use all of the current space in the neighborhood.
Board member Katie Hockert noted that in any change the physical building at Lake Elmo Elementary School is within the Rutherford boundary.
“Which parents told us, ‘What’s the matter? Said Hockert. “And it’s a little shocking that this is the position we find ourselves in with the placement of our facilities in our district. “
While Brookview’s expansion is helpful, it’s not a long-term solution.
“Option A is giving us the most bang for our buck right now by moving the fewest kids right now,” Hockert said, “but looking at the growth and if we’re going to continue this trend try to not to disturb our families and to keep as close as possible to their neighborhood schools, for me Option A is not going to last very long, and what I see on the horizon is really the need for more of physical buildings in the south to really cope with population growth.
She asked if the board has approved How long will this change last before moving the boundaries again.
Drommerhausen replied that it is difficult to give a definitive answer.
“Right now you’re talking about the delivery times for the material, how quickly the houses are going to be built, all of those kinds of things are really on the table right now,” Drommerhausen said. “… it settled us here to give us space now and in the future.” “
Drommerhausen said boundary changes are due to take place next year due to population growth in Lake Elmo emphasizing
“We are reaching a tipping point where physically we have to do something with limits,” Drommerhausen said.
During the community listening sessions, Sherman heard from the community that the board should find a permanent solution, none of the boundary changes are permanent. She noted that the board leadership and previous administrations were aware of this issue, but took no action.
“None of this is ideal for me,” Sherman said. “I feel like this resets the clock, probably where the old planks were. Now, time is running out on this board to resolve the issue. “