After a long battle, a decision to reroute hundreds of elementary students into different schools on the north end of the South Washington County school district could be only days away.
But the school board has pushed back a decision on perhaps the most contentious question of all: what will happen to the wall-free, grade-mingled vibe at Valley Crossing Community School in Woodbury?
“My main concern is with this entire process — none of it is sitting well with me,” Board Member Katie Schwartz lamented earlier this month. With kids from the neighborhood about to flow in and expect traditional classes, she added, there’s bound to be conflict over Valley Crossing’s unique style of learning.
“I don’t like to see, right off the bat, parents against one another,” Schwartz said. “But that’s what it’s going to do.”
Others objected that that isn’t inevitable, that multiple types of programs within a single building are still possible.
The board’s consensus, though, was to define first who’s going where, and then get the right people to the table to work through how to deal with Valley Crossing, a school that has served three districts but now is being taken over by the South Washington district.
Timelines have changed before, but the board is expected to fix new boundaries for several north area elementary schools, including Valley Crossing, on Thursday, Jan. 21.
The option recommended by school staff was described to the board in December as one that would shift about 770 kids to different schools out of a total of roughly 4,300 in the northern end of the district, primarily Woodbury.
The plan drew furious opposition from parents in the Dancing Waters housing development among others, who said it would fragment Valley Crossing.
“We had 400 concerned citizens coming together in four days,” parent Teresa Christenson told the board.
“We want neighborhood schools,” she added, “yet this ends up with only 40 percent of the student body coming from the neighborhood. If it goes to a vote, we won’t have a majority vote on the destiny of our own children.”
Senior district officials recommended parallel processes to decide on the boundaries and the programming at Valley Crossing. But the school board felt differently.
“People who are not going to be there shouldn’t make the decision for everyone,” said Board Member Sharon Van Leer.
So the boundary decision is to be made as early as this week, with a proposed process for working out the instructional decisions for Valley Crossing coming before the board in February.
Many basic decisions have yet to be made, said Board Member Michelle Witte.
“We have lots of schools now that have two [different styles of instruction being used] in them,” he said. “No one has said we can’t have both. That’s a myth. We haven’t dealt with that yet.”
The district has links to more information on attendance boundaries on its home page, www.sowashco.org.