By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Parents feel a Twin Cities school board may let them down tonight. The Stillwater district could vote to close three elementary schools in Marine on St. Croix, Hugo and Stillwater.

Board members say enrollment there is down while demand in the southern part of the district is growing, but some families say they feel misled.

Emotions ran high, and the meeting between parents and school officials grew contentious at times. Parents say they were duped to believe a $97 million dollar bond that they voted for, would keep schools open, not close them.

Hundreds of parents, teachers and students packed Stillwater Junior High School to let the school board know they oppose closing Marine, Oak Park and Withrow Elementary schools.

“School administrators, board members and parents have been pitted against each other over a proposal that is fundamentally flawed,” one speaker said at the meeting.

“These are our communities, these our children, and you work for us. Vote no,” another speaker told the school board.

The opposition to what’s called the Building Opportunities to Learn and Discover (BOLD) proposal resounded through the auditorium, many calling it short-sighted.

“A yes vote boldly states that the school district is ready and willing to enter into a lawsuit,” one parent told the board.

“Don’t just vote no for BOLD, vote yes for your community,” another said.

A handful of the roughly 50 people who spoke supported BOLD.

The superintendent and district leaders said the closures will help to better meet the learning needs of all students, and the bond money will go to build a new elementary school in the south where the population is growing, and will help with other improvements.

“You see a lot of people this evening who are very vocal, love their schools. We understand that,” Stillwater Superintendent Denise Pontrelli said. “It’s a really hard decision. Hard decision for the board, hard decision for the administration and the communities.”

If the board does vote to close the schools, those changes will go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Parents say if that happens, they won’t plan to back down and plan to sue.

Jennifer Mayerle

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