Residents of an Edina neighborhood who have been trying for years to get annexed into the Edina School District could find relief under a proposal currently before state lawmakers.
Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, and Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, have introduced bills that would make it easier for residents to leave one school district for another when a unique set of circumstances applies -- one that certainly pertains to residents of the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood.
Century-old school boundary lines split off the Edina neighborhood of 400 homes into the Hopkins School District, which includes portions of seven western suburbs. But most Parkwood Knolls residents desperately want to get annexed into the prestigious district that shares their city's name.
Under current law, homeowners seeking annexation must get approval from both the school district they are leaving and the school district they want to join. Once that approval has been granted, homeowners can then file a petition with the county, which ultimately makes the decision.
The Hopkins School District has been reluctant to allow the Parkwood Knolls residents to leave, noting that the move would cause the district's tax base to shrink and increase the burden on other taxpayers in the district.
The new legislation, however, would lift approval requirements from the school district that residents are seeking to leave as long as it doesn't operate a school within the petitioners' city of residence.
And since Hopkins doesn't operate any schools in Edina, Parkwood Knolls residents would only have to get approval from the Hennepin County Board. That may be no easy task, but at least it would give the residents an opportunity to make their case.
"At the end of the day, this is probably our only solution," said Alan Koehler, a Parkwood Knolls resident and member of Unite Edina 273, the group seeking annexation.
Koehler and other parents argue that annexation would allow their children to attend the same school as their other Edina neighbors and forgo longer bus rides to Hopkins schools. It also would allow neighbors to vote in Edina school elections.
Most of the neighborhood's 202 school-age children already attend Edina schools through open enrollment. But annexing the neighborhood removes the pressure of open-enrollment, which becomes more difficult as a school's population increases.
That's certainly been the case in Edina, where enrollment has been steadily growing. Last year, the district saw an unexpected influx of about 200 students, which prompted school officials to cut off open enrollment to non-district students at most schools.
After learning of the proposed legislation, Hopkins Superintendent John Schultz wrote a letter to Edina Superintendent Ric Dressen last week suggesting that representatives from the two school districts work together to find a solution that is amenable to both districts.
Still, lawmakers say a legislative fix is in order.
"Constituents have told me they need this legislation to remove the barrier in state law that effectively precludes a neighborhood from simply having their petition heard," Downey said. "Even with this legislation, the neighborhood would still face a long process and extensive negotiations with both the detachment and annexation districts, but at least they could have their voice heard."
While the legislation has passed the House, it still must clear the Senate. Lawmakers expect to wrap up the legislative session by the end of the month.
Michel said he is optimistic about the legislation's chances of being approved.
"This Edina group of parents have a very powerful story to tell," he said. "And they deserve a forum to tell their story."
Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469