South Washington County Schools

School Board approves Long Range Facility Plan

During its regular school board meeting on Nov. 20, the School Board approved the Long Range Facility Plan, which, if funding is approved by the community in 2015, will ensure adequate space and improvements across the district for the next ten years.

As projected, residential development in Cottage Grove and Woodbury are expected to result in increases in district enrollment and require that the district examine whether its existing facilities are adequate to meet projected enrollment over the next ten years. Additionally, aging facilities and changes in curricular content and instructional delivery require an evaluation of the need for renovations to existing facilities.

Beginning in December 2013, a board approved steering committee and task force began the review of existing facility needs, as well as current and projected enrollment. Proposed in October were two packages that were intended to address the needs found through the long range facility planning effort. The following components are included in the “hybrid” plan that was approved on Nov. 20:

Planned for the high school level:

  • Construct additions to expand capacity of East Ridge High School by 500 seats, Park High School by 200 seats and Woodbury High School by 300 seats. Target completion of Woodbury High School & Park High School for 2017-18 and completion of East Ridge High School by 2018-19. 
  • By April 2015, identify and have School Board approve the changes in high school attendance boundaries to include areas of future growth in Woodbury to shift from East Ridge High School to Woodbury High School and existing residential neighborhood groups in Cottage Grove to shift from East Ridge High School to Park High School. (During the Board discussion, specific attention was included to consider “grandfathering” siblings as well. The issue will be addressed during the attendance boundary discussion.) 
  • Adjust boundaries between Woodbury High School and East Ridge High School effective with the 2015-16 school year, with a four-year transition period.
  • Phase in approved attendance boundary changes in Cottage Grove over four years. Provide choice to 2016-17 students in grades 9-12 to attend either high school. In 2017-18, ninth grade and future grades required to attend attendance boundary school.
  • When/if East Ridge High School reaches 2,300 capacity make additional attendance boundary changes from East Ridge High School to Woodbury High School. 

Planned for the middle school level:

  • Acquire land in the northwest area of Cottage Grove and construct new 1,300 seat Oltman Middle School to serve areas west of Highway 61 and areas of existing and future developments in Woodbury and Cottage Grove for the 2017-18 school year. (Delayed to 2018-19 school year if Board doesn’t authorize expenditures for design fees in advance of bond referendum approval.)
  • Construct connecting link between Woodbury Middle School/Woodbury Elementary School to increase Woodbury Middle School capacity to 1,300 students for 2017-18 school year. 
  • Shift Middle School Immersion students from Cottage Grove Middle School to Woodbury Middle School beginning in 2017-18. 
  • By April 2015, identify and have School Board approve the changes in middle school attendance boundaries.
  • Phase in of approved attendance boundaries over three years.

Planned for the elementary school level:

  • Shift Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) program from Liberty Ridge Elementary to Royal Oaks Elementary for the 2016-17 school year. Renovate ASD space at Liberty Ridge for regular instruction. Construct addition at Royal Oaks to accommodate ASD program requirements. 
  • Renovate former Oltman Middle School and move Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion program from Crestview Elementary School to renovated school for 2017-18. (Subject to new middle school opening date.) 
  • Coordinate the timing of elementary attendance boundary changes in Cottage Grove with the move out of Nuevas Fronteras and availability of space at Crestview. 
  • Negotiate to purchase Valley Crossing from collaborating districts by January 2016. Define a phase out period to transition 834 students out of the building, and phase in attendance boundary while maintaining choice programming at Valley Crossing. 
  • If unsuccessful in item four above, proceed with construction of Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten Centers at Bailey Elementary School and Middleton Elementary School for 2017-18 school year.
  • Shift Gateway program from Bailey Elementary School to Woodbury Elementary School for 2016-17.
  • Adjust elementary attendance boundaries in Woodbury for 2017-18. 

The final plan was the result of the Task Force’s effort and the review of feedback from more than 500 people who attended the four community meetings, and more than 1,500 people completing a survey.

Assistant to the Superintendent for Operations Mike Vogel led the steering committee efforts, and Assistant Superintendent for Academic Excellence and Accountability Julie Nielsen facilitated the work of the task force.

Additional facility needs to be met:

  • At Park and Woodbury high schools: Expansion and upgrades of performing arts instructional areas, add air conditioning to the Activity Centers, add electronic controls to raise/lower basketball hoops, and replace/upgrade main gym sound systems.
  • At Cottage Grove and Lake middle schools: Addition of orchestra and high needs special education classrooms, and expand cafeteria seating and performance spaces.
  • Expand common area and performance spaces, replace small group instruction, add or renovate classrooms for high need special education, band and orchestra instruction at Armstrong, Crestview, Hillside, Newport, Pine Hill, Pullman, Royal Oaks, and Woodbury elementary schools
  • Add classrooms for high needs special education and band/orchestra instruction at Bailey, Cottage Grove, Grey Cloud, Liberty Ridge, Middleton, and Red Rock elementary schools.
  • Incorporate Adult Basic Education, Early Childhood Family Education, PreSchool Screening spaces into former Oltman renovations.
  • Construct or lease grounds vehicle and Special Education bus storage spaces.
  • Expand cafeteria seating at Newport Elementary.

Next steps in the Long Range Facility Planning Process

Now that the School Board has approved a plan for facilities, the district will work through the steps to garner approval on the various projects through the Department of Education, conduct a community survey measuring the level of support in this regard, and determine the optimal timing for an election for a bond referendum.

Given the district’s financial status and, in particular, the general fund, it is likely that a bond question will be accompanied by an operating levy referendum. Future district communications will keep the public updated as to the status of any referendum moving forward.