Prior Lake residents filled the school board meeting room Monday to say they worry a newly considered elementary school boundary option would divide the Knob Hill and Carriage Hills neighborhoods.
Under the proposal, labeled C4, the Carriage Hills neighborhood would remain as part of the Jeffers Pond Elementary School attendance boundary while Knob Hill, a neighboring subdivision, would be redistricted to Westwood Elementary School.
The board plans to redraw the boundary attendance lines for the 2020 school year to account for the yet-to-open Hamilton Ridge Elementary School and the district’s overall school capacity.
Superintendent Teri Staloch said the C4 option came up after the board collected feedback at the April 22 meeting about two other boundary proposals.
“The goal is to ensure our schools’ stability for the next five or six years,” Staloch said.
While a few parents previously favored other options, those at Monday’s meeting overwhelmingly supported modifying the option dubbed C2, which the board’s input committee hadn’t recommended.
Option C2 would take the Jeffers Pond boundary line to just south of Spring Lake Regional Park and would encompass both Carriage Hills and Knob Hill. It would also redistrict a large area around Cleary Lake Regional Park from Westwood to Hamilton Ridge.
The option would set Five Hawks Elementary School at about 97 percent capacity in the next five years and leave Westwood in the 72 to 76 percent range, according to district figures.
Even Jeffers Pond preschool assistant Andrea Bernhardt spoke out in favor of an alternative to C4.
“There is overcrowding at Redtail and Five Hawks, and (student families) know they’ll have to move,” Bernhardt said. “Jeffers Pond hasn’t had capacity issues, so a lot of us are here saying, wait, what? Why are we having to move?”
Lesa Jongeling, whose daughter would be transferred to Westwood in Option C4, noted Westwood is four times farther away than Jeffers Pond when accounting for Lower Prior Lake.
“Last week I spoke to a teacher who said when it comes down to it, it’s about the kids,” Jongeling said. “Some of the kids will be fine, and some won’t.”
School board member Melissa Enger asked other board members why C2 was not brought forward since it met the desired school capacity numbers. Board Chairman Lee Shimek said the input and design committees spent months researching which boundary options to recommend.
“We have to keep in mind the whole district,” Shimek said. “We have to look at the whole picture of what’s best for the kids.”
While Hamilton Ridge plays a large role in the decision to redraw district boundaries, the school is not quite cleared for construction. On Monday night, Savage City Council members tabled Hamilton Ridge’s design plans due to the school’s parking lot’s lack of a north exit. Slated to open in south Savage in 2020, Hamilton Ridge can only be built with the city’s approval of its site plans.
Staloch said that should the elementary school be delayed, enrollment will still increase at buildings that are over-capacity.
“To date, PLSAS has focused efforts on boundary changes for the 2020/21 school year,” she wrote in an email. “We have not yet examined the possibility of making boundary adjustments for the 2019/20 school year, should there be a delay in construction.”
District Assistant Superintendent Jeff Holmberg said the district is working to develop an adjusted site plan that would go before the council May 20.
Correction: The article has been updated to include current capacity projections for Five Hawks and Westwood.