A majority of people responding to a survey conducted for the Stillwater school district said they oppose a controversial consolidation plan that, among other things, would close three elementary schools.
Superintendent Denise Pontrelli floated the “Building Opportunities to Learn and Discover” proposal, known as BOLD, in mid-December. The plan would shift students districtwide to make the most of existing space, Pontrelli said, citing efficiencies in costs and learning.
But many parents and local government officials said it caught them by surprise, and a storm of protest followed.
Pontrelli said Friday that the district’s BOLD recommendation hadn’t changed, despite the survey findings.
“It’s no surprise to us that half of the residents we heard from are opposed to school closure,” she said. “What is a bit of a surprise is the level of misinformation and misperception that exists about BOLD and the lack of understanding about how it would help improve learning for all of our students.”
The seven-member school board will vote Thursday on the BOLD plan, following a 5 p.m. public hearing in the auditorium at Stillwater Junior High School, 523 W. Marsh St., Stillwater.
The plan would close Marine Elementary in Marine on St. Croix, Withrow Elementary in rural Hugo and Oak Park Elementary on the border between Stillwater and Oak Park Heights. Those students would be moved to the district’s other seven schools, although boundaries haven’t been decided.
The results showed that 57 percent of all residents surveyed said they opposed or strongly opposed BOLD, as did 51 percent of parents.
The highest-ranking “most serious” concern was school closings, followed by the BOLD plan, high taxes, poor spending, lack of funding, poor communication and Pontrelli herself.
Among those responding who favored the plan, cost savings and minimizing future budget reductions were cited.
Awareness of BOLD runs very high, according to the survey. Eighty-four percent of all residents contacted, and 94 percent of parents, said they knew of the plan. Opposition to BOLD extended to residents surveyed who live beyond the areas of the elementary schools slated for closing.
The survey found that the top reason for opposing BOLD was that it would “hurt local cities.” Parents indicated that fewer of them would send their children to Stillwater district schools in 2017 if the plan is approved.
Survey findings from the Morris Leatherman Co. were based on a random sample of 570 residents. Details are available at tinyurl.com/hq2nnwq/.