Woodbury school is saved, but work still needs to be done

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 11:46 PM

Crosswinds Arts and Science School in Woodbury is alive for now.

The board overseeing the integration school heeded parental wishes to save Crosswinds from closure by agreeing Wednesday night to turn the school over to the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

But the Perpich Center now must win legislative approval and funding by April 1 or see the building claimed, instead, by the South Washington County School District, under action taken by the East Metro Integration District (EMID) school board.

South Washington County, for its part, has made clear it had no interest in continuing the Crosswinds program, leaving parents and students to promote the Perpich plan -- both before the EMID board and soon the Legislature.

"We're all yours," Eric Celeste, a parent, told Perpich Center executive director Sue Mackert immediately after Wednesday's vote.

Said Mackert: "We're happy to step up to the plate to do everything we can" to keep the school running.

Like the Perpich Center, Crosswinds aims to unite students of diverse backgrounds through study in the arts and global and cultural understanding. The grades 6-10 school runs year-round with a curriculum that includes music and theater, as well as an International Baccalaureate program.

The building is within the boundaries of South Washington County, which sees it as a potential solution to space and program needs that it has yet to define.

Jim Gelbmann, a member of both the South Washington County and EMID boards, was instrumental in keeping the hopes for Crosswinds alive, breaking a 5-5 deadlock by advocating the April 1 deadline. He surmised that if the Perpich Center couldn't win House and Senate approvals by April 1, South Washington County still would have enough time to plan and run a school program there in the fall.

EMID, a multi-district collaborative, created Crosswinds in the late 1990s to promote the voluntary integration of white and minority students from St. Paul and surrounding suburbs. But member districts have pulled back funding as their own schools have grown more diverse. Amid the instability, Crosswinds has seen its enrollment drop from about 545 students in 2006-07 to about 350 students today.

Last week, Mackert said she believed the Perpich Center needed $2.5 million to $3 million to run the school. On Wednesday, she told board members that she believed some of that money already is being spent within the K-12 system.

She was eager to begin lobbying: "I clearly will be talking to the governor's office tomorrow," Mackert said after the vote.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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