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Education
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Wayzata's North Woods Elementary School prepares for first year

PLYMOUTH — Wayzata Public School District’s North Woods Elementary School is almost ready for the school year.

Two weeks before the school’s debut, construction workers, paraprofessionals and teachers are bustling around the school getting it ready for the students who will file into the building on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

North Woods Elementary Principal Jenny Berg is excited for the new school year. Berg has been working over the summer to connect with the new staff and new students and parents. The school hosted an open house on Aug. 28. The school’s playground also opened earlier in the summer so local families could use it before the school year begins.

Some students are new to the area, but many were part of the redistricting process — moving from Meadow Ridge, Oakwood and Greenwood elementary schools in the Wayzata Public School District. The elementary schools serve students in kindergarten through fifth-grade.

Berg is optimistic about the start of the school year, telling Lakeshore Weekly News “kids are resilient.”

“Our challenge is to make sure every student and staff and family member feel welcome,” she said. “I think coming to a new place can bring out a wide variety of emotions for people, from excitement to a little bit of anxiety.”

The building

The new school at 8995 54th Ave. N. in Plymouth is a mirror image of nearby Meadow Ridge Elementary, which was completed in 2016. North Woods also includes the 10 rooms that were added onto Meadow Ridge in 2018. The building is two stories and 104,611 square feet.

The school is split up by grades, which are designated by colored carpeting. Kindergarten through second-grade students share the bottom floor, while students in third- through fifth-grade share the top floor.

Berg’s favorite part of the school is how “bright” it is because of large windows in most classrooms and shared spaces. Many of the classrooms have glass walls that open up into the hallways, allowing the grade to gather and learn as one.

“I remember schools in the past had much more rigid facilities and I think ours spills out into different places where teachers can be creative and flexible in how they teach and do different things in different ways,” Berg said.

Staff and students

Berg met her staff team in May. Some teachers and staff transferred from other schools, like Berg who was previously the associate principal of Wayzata Central Middle School, while others are new to the district.

“I feel like when you sign up or are interested in coming to a new school, you are sort of interested in new opportunities,” Berg said. “You realize you’re going to make new relationships with your colleagues, you’re going to be part of creating a new community.”

The group is creating new traditions for the school, Berg said, which is the exciting part of working for a brand new school.

North Woods students picked one new tradition for the school, their mascot. The elementary school kids voted to have a wolf represent them as their mascot, with 70% of votes, according to Berg. She said the students and staff will be called the wolf pack.

Capacity

The new school has room for 850 students, Berg said. Enrollment as of Aug. 23 was around 560 students for the 2019-2020 school year.

The school district expects enrollment to grow in the North Woods Elementary area over the next five years, which would put the school at capacity.


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Education
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Wayzata faces new redistricting challenge as school year begins

PLYMOUTH — More than a year after the Wayzata School Board made the decision to make changes to school boundaries, residents who live in Plymouth, Medina and Maple Grove, the communities affected by the redistricting, are preparing for a new school year.

Students will go back to school on Tuesday, Sept. 3. Some redistricted students moved schools last fall and have spent a full school year in their new environments. For those moving to the brand new North Woods Elementary School, the day after Labor Day will be their first day at their new school.

Around 600 elementary school students and 111 middle school students were moved as part of the district’s shift to include North Woods Elementary School, a kindergarten through fifth-grade school at 18995 54th Ave. N. in Plymouth.

The district and the school board saw opposition to the redistricting when it was first announced in the spring of 2018, including a protest of parents from what the district calls the Heather Ponds neighborhood whose students were being moved from Greenwood Elementary School to Gleason Lake Elementary School.

Elizabeth Aseltine was among the parents upset by the school board’s final vote in May 2018 to approve the referendum to redistrict.

Aseltine and her family moved to Plymouth from California in 2017 at which point her three kids started school at Greenwood. Despite her efforts to protest the redistricting, Aseltine’s children were moved to new schools starting in the 2018-2019 school year. Aseltine’s two elementary school kids attended Gleason Lake Elementary and her now middle schooler went to Wayzata West Middle School.

Aseltine is still upset by the decision and feels the school board took a brash approach to the expanding enrollment. She says she knows many parents who are still upset about the redistricting, but put their energy into transitioning their kids to a new school when the referendum passed.

Kristin Tollison, director of administrative services for the Wayzata Public School District, told Lakeshore Weekly News in June that parents stopped protesting the redistricting after the referendum passed and the district has seen very little opposition as it prepares for the 2019-2020 school year.

New data

Tollison told the paper that after the redistricting last year, the school district would not have to redistrict for another five years. But an Aug. 23 email to parents and a news release said new growth figures presented to the Wayzata School Board in July suggest the district is growing faster than initially expected.

Wayzata Public Schools had expected to increase its student population by 18% in the next five years leading to the addition of 1,748 students, but Statewide Demographer Hazel Reinhardt’s new data suggests the district may gain another 2,000 students in the next five years for a total of 3,748 new students.

“We asked for this demographic study as part of our planning process to ensure we have the school spaces our students need and our families expect,” Wayzata Public Schools Superintendent Chace Anderson said in the news release from the school district. “Being a school district of choice is quite an honor, and benefits all residents of our community.”

Aseltine found the email from Anderson concerning, worried about her kids moving schools again because of the increased enrollment projections.

“With this anticipated growth, I would ask them to slow it down and not treat it as such an urgent matter,” She told Lakeshore Weekly News. “Wait to actually see classrooms overgrown before they make these changes and come up with other options.”

According to the release from Wayzata Public Schools, more information will be provided soon as to how the district plans to deal with the increased enrollment projections.

Plymouth City Manager Dave Callister told the paper the demand for housing in Plymouth is due to the great school districts in the area including Wayzata Public Schools but that enrollment numbers will level out as every year there is less available land to develop.

“The quality of the school districts is high,” Callister said. “The number of available lots is diminishing and we expect that all that will be done within the next five years.”