It looks likes the classrooms and hallways of Marine Elementary School won't be filled with students next fall as the school's new owner had hoped.
Last October, the Stillwater school board approved a $950,000 offer from the city of Marine on St. Croix to buy the property. City officials wanted to see the old school filled with students again, possibly from River Grove elementary, a charter school in Wilder Forest, a conservation area north of Stillwater.
But in February, the school's authorizer, the Minnesota Guild, told River Grove it needed to stay put for the rest of its five-year lease, which expires in June 2022. The school currently rents several cottage-like buildings from the Wilder Foundation.
"We encourage you to focus on continuing to establish your wonderful new charter school at its existing site," the Minnesota Guild said.
Last month, the Marine on St. Croix City Council wrote a public letter reemphasizing its intentions for the school property but stating that the Minnesota Guild's position would mean that use of the Marine school building would likely be delayed a year.
Meanwhile, the city will host a meeting April 27 at the Marine on St. Croix Village Hall to share ideas about other possible uses for the building.
"Most charter schools would kill for that space," said River Grove Administrator Drew Goodson. "We are just very, very lucky that we have this incredible space at Wilder."
He said a majority of staff and parents at River Grove want the school to remain at Wilder Forest.
"It's different from any other elementary school," Goodson said. "It's tucked away in the middle of the woods. Our mission is to get students immersed in nature, and there's no better place to do that."
River Grove plans to buy its own property one day, he said. Until then, the Wilder location offers room to expand. And River Grove hasn't ruled out the possibility of a split campus between Wilder Forest and the Marine school building, Goodson said. "We've just kind of paused that conversation for now," he added.
"Now the ball is back in the city's court," Goodson said. "They have a responsibility to be prudent about how they use that space. But we would love to continue having a dialogue" with the city.