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Prior Lake-Savage School Board proposes temporary elementary boundary changes

Staff in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District are working on the next steps to put what voters approved last fall into motion. Part of that involves the construction of a new elementary school, set to open in fall 2020.

To get there, the school board has to temporarily redraw boundaries to address current overcrowding issues.

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board will consider moving 60 Redtail Ridge Elementary School students and 16 WestWood Elementary School students to Glendale Elementary for the 2018-19 school year.

The Redtail Ridge students who might be moved live in the northern portion of the school’s boundary, north of South Park Drive to County Road 42. For WestWood, it would be students north of County Road 42 near Virginia Avenue in Savage.

The overcrowding issue was the momentum behind a successful referendum initiative in November, which asked voters for $109.3 million to build the elementary school, construct a new building for Bridges Area Learning Center and add on to Prior Lake High School and six other schools.

“During the referendum information campaign, all stakeholders were notified that some boundary adjustments will be needed, even if question one is approved, to even out enrollment across schools,” District Communications Director Kristi Mussman said.

The boundary changes are one of a few ways the board is hoping to create extra space for students before the construction of the school. Other methods include constructing additional classrooms or utilizing existing spaces as classrooms.

The changes would only apply to students within those schools who live in district boundaries, meaning not open enrolled students, Mussman said.

Open enrolled students are already coming from other communities and should make the move to Glendale, school board member Melissa Enger said.

“Yes, once a Laker always a Laker, but we have packed schools,” Enger said. “We have some tough decisions right now and you really have to (rely) on common sense.”

Parents of students in the district pay for the buildings and so should get primary use, Enger said.

“There are many questions, but the main question is who should be displaced first?” Enger said. “Should some students who are already being driven into school from neighboring towns or should it be resident students? Their parents are paying for the buildings with their taxpaying dollars.”

Savage resident Crystal Jacobson, whose child attends Glendale Elementary, said her son is excited about having new friends join him.

“I think as a community, we need to do what’s best for our children,” Jacobson said. “If that means a year of a few extra kids in the classroom, then so be it. The outcome of having a new school for these children is amazing.”

Redtail Ridge Elementary Principal Barb Yetzer emailed parents after a school board study session on Jan. 25, when the changes were suggested.

“This news has already been communicated with the Redtail Ridge families who live in the northern portion of our school boundaries and may be directly affected by the potential boundary change,” Yetzer wrote. “In the interest of clear communication, I want to be sure our larger Redtail Ridge community is also aware of this potential change.”

The board is hoping to minimize the number of times a family will change schools, make each elementary school equally crowded and keep neighborhood students together in the move to Glendale.

The changes will be voted on in March.

If parents have any questions, they should contact the schools’ principals, Mussman said.

Parents can attend the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12 for the opportunity to voice their opinion to the board, Enger said.

“I’m hoping a lot of folks give their thoughts and feedback to our school board either by emailing us or by being on the open mic,” Enger said.

By Maggie Stanwood mstanwood@swpub.com