The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school board will vote Jan. 22 on a recommendation by district employees to pull out of the East Metro Integration District, a consortium of 10 districts it helped start in 1996, in favor of starting its own multi-district integration collaborative.

The district is the second-largest provider of students to the program, sending more than 180 students -- nearly 20 percent of EMID's enrollment -- to its two schools. It also sends about $1 million a year to EMID through state per-pupil funding and integration revenue.

Its withdrawal from EMID would be effective July 1, 2009.

"The inclusiveness [of different races] is right here in the district," said Tom Howley, district educational equity coordinator. "The goal is to do more here that makes a difference."

EMID was started when St. Paul was found to be "racially isolated" in comparison to North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale and Roseville. The term applies to any district that has 20 percent more minority students than bordering districts.

Racially isolated districts must come up with a plan to create more interaction among ethnic groups.

Those three districts started an elementary school in a plan that eventually grew to a K-5 school and a 6-10 school drawing from St. Paul and nine suburban districts.

But like many first-ring suburban districts, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale saw a demographic shift. Minority students now make up one-third of its population, and the district is racially isolated in comparison to Stillwater and Mahtomedi.

"It really had us looking at, 'OK, now we're not obligated to form a collaboration with EMID; is this working?'" said Troy Miller, district director of teaching and learning. "We felt we should see what other options are there."

EMID Superintendent Carl Wahlstrom said North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale first contacted him last month about leaving, citing a desire to keep more of its integration efforts -- and the state funds that go with those efforts -- in the district.

While it would send money to EMID if its students continue to attend Harambee Elementary or Crosswinds East Metro Arts and Science School through the state's open enrollment law, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale might be able to recoup general education money if it lures students back through its own magnet programs.

Its integration funding is a little trickier.

Under its joint powers agreement with EMID, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale would have to give notice by Feb. 1 that it is pulling out of the collaborative.

To get the $1.6 million it receives in integration funding from the state each year, the 11,000-student district must collaborate with Mahtomedi and Stillwater to alleviate the racial imbalance among those districts.

Both of those districts are part of EMID, and Director of Education Services Kathy Griebel said neither is interested in making a decision by Feb. 1.

Howley said North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale had talked to Forest Lake about a multi-district collaborative and left open the possibility that other districts not part of EMID might be interested.

Ben Goessling • 651-298-1546