For some, Edina isn't Edina

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 15, 2010 - 9:51 PM

Edina residents in the Hopkins School District are pushing to get their kids into Edina schools.

A group of Edina parents just want their children to attend Edina schools. But that's going to be more difficult than it sounds.

Century-old boundary lines split off their neighborhood of 400 homes into the Hopkins School District, which includes portions of seven suburbs. They're aiming to annex their Parkwood Knolls neighborhood into the prestigious school district that shares their city's name.

"We have nothing against Hopkins schools at all," parent Alison James said. "But we live in Edina and we associate with the community that is Edina."

Their battle, which has been fought before, is being waged with new vigor amid surveys, mass e-mails and social networking. It also comes as Edina's high-achieving schools are closing open enrollment from outside the district because of an unexpected surge in students.

"It's rare that [annexations are] proposed; it's even more rare that they're successful," said Charlie Kyte of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. "It would take a significant effort or willingness to change it."

The parents in Unite Edina 273, who count 183 children in the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood, say they shouldn't have to continue to open-enroll into Edina schools, which boasts top national rankings and high rates of college-bound students.

Right now, however, Edina doesn't have a lot of extra room for nonresidents of the district.

With 8,188 students, Edina announced last week that due to an unanticipated influx of nearly 200 students, open enrollment is closed at nearly every school until officials can reassess capacity next year. This year 1,166 of Edina's students are non-district residents.

While individual schools occasionally close open enrollment, Edina has never closed it district-wide. "We've been close the last couple years," Superintendent Ric Dressen said.

He theorized that this year's jump may be new families moving into the school district or returning after attending other districts or private schools.

That forces those who don't live in the school district, like Edina resident Alan Koehler's 5-year-old, onto a waiting list that has 252 students this year. The Koehlers live two houses away from the district lines.

"It's nonsensical," Koehler said. "It defies logic from a neighborhood standpoint."

Annexation faces challenges

Parkwood Knolls residents have led similar annexation efforts in past years. This time Koehler and other parents behind Unite Edina 273 have an organized campaign that includes mass e-mails, a Facebook group and door-to-door surveys.

In order to annex, they need approval from Hopkins and then the Hennepin County Board. They plan to meet with administrators in the next couple weeks and start gathering signatures for a formal petition to present to the Hopkins School Board by mid- to late 2011.

Unite Edina 273 argues that annexation will allow their children to attend the same school as their neighbors and forego longer bus rides to Hopkins schools. It also will allow neighbors to vote in Edina school elections.

Many of the neighborhood's kids already attend Edina schools. By the group's count, 124 Parkwood Knolls students who are in the Hopkins School District open-enroll into Edina while nine attend Hopkins schools. The rest attend other K-12 schools.

Implications for Hopkins, too

However, if the neighborhood is annexed, Hopkins wouldn't just lose students to Edina, it would lose money. The Hopkins district spills into seven cities: Hopkins, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Golden Valley and Edina.

Decreasing Hopkins Schools' tax base means increasing school district residents' taxes to make up the difference, Hopkins Superintendent John Schultz said. "That's the crux of the cons to moving in that direction. ... You end up with a domino effect."

Taxes also could change for Parkwood Knolls residents, who would have to continue to pay taxes to Hopkins Schools for any bond referendums or other school district debts incurred before they annexed, as well as any that the Edina district takes on after the annexation.

That's OK, Koehler said. "The neighborhood is looking long-term."

The alternative is continuing to open-enroll, which he said won't help if Edina continues to close open enrollment. In the meantime, he and James are sending their children elsewhere, such as private schools -- not to Hopkins.

"That's not our community," Koehler said. "I work in Edina. I live in Edina. I shop in Edina. It's not an elitist attitude. This is where we are."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141

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