Community members are being asked to weigh in this week on budget cuts that could result if voters were to reject a Stillwater schools levy proposal later this year.

The list of cuts is being assembled as district officials also work on a new levy proposal that is expected to be put before voters in the fall.

The district now has a voter-approved levy that provides $11 million annually, but it is set to expire in June 2014.

Town hall meetings are set for Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Oak-Land Junior High, and for Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Stillwater Junior High to let the public know how the $11 million is spent and what could happen if it is not renewed. The meetings will run from 6 to 8 p.m. People are encouraged to bring mobile devices with Internet connections so they can provide online feedback during the meetings.

In 2011, voters rejected each of three funding requests then proposed by the district.

Recently, Superintendent Corey Lunn wrote on the district's website that he has heard repeatedly that the district has a "strong tradition," but that such comments often are "shadowed by a feeling that our schools are not as strong as they once were." A combination of inadequate state funding and budget cuts has meant less support for students and the community, he wrote, adding: "I can't help but think what our students and community could do if we could recapture this sense of 'greatness' and realize the past support for our schools."

Plans call for the school board to approve a new strategic plan on Thursday, Feb. 21, and to hear the results of a community survey on a potential fall levy proposal on March 21 -- all in anticipation of an April 11 decision on what that final levy proposal could be.

The board also is expected to vote in March on a budget-reduction package that will list what is to be cut if the levy is not renewed.


Bill proposes new spending flexibility

State Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, has proposed giving school districts the flexibility to use all-day kindergarten funding for preschool programming, too.

"The bill gives schools the ability to appropriately balance the needs, wants and resources of their district," she said in a statement. "It is important that we support our youngest learners."

Currently, the South Washington County School District gives parents the option of full-day or half-day programs for kindergartners.

According to a recent district survey, about 54 percent of the 464 respondents said they would support additional resources for pre-K programs.

Kent's proposal comes at a time when all-day kindergarten and early learning are gaining traction as education funding priorities at the state Capitol. The bill was heard in committee on Jan. 31, and has been laid over for possible inclusion in the Senate omnibus education finance bill.


French students win award in zoo outing

Students in the International Baccalaureate (IB) French program at Park High School won an honor for "most creative presentation" with a skit involving sharks during the annual French Day outing at the Minnesota Zoo.

The zoo sponsors special world language days for students in grades 7-12 in February, plus an American Sign Language Day in April.

As part of the event, upper-level students are allowed to use costumes, music and props to interpret various animal exhibits. The Park students performed skits on sharks, stingrays and sea otters. The skits were performed entirely in French and required weeks of preparation.

Students involved in the shark skit included Nate Pearson, Lucas Lindstrom, Gabby Bjornson, Dayana Boyanova, Erik Hunder and David Link.