Hopkins School Board ends Edina’s quest to leave

Edina residents’ attempt to secede from the Hopkins school district is over – for now.

The Hopkins School Board unanimously opposed on Thursday, Dec. 20, a request for 467 northwest Edina properties to leave the school district with the intent of annexing into the Edina school district.

After a presentation of the timeline of the request, the history of the Hopkins school district’s formation and the financial impacts of the detachment, Superintendent John Schultz told the board the recommendation was to deny the request because it wasn’t in the best interest of the Hopkins school district.

Alan Koehler, chair of the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood’s Unite Edina 273 group, said after the meeting that the Edina residents weren’t surprised because they were expecting the denial. However, they were surprised by the lack of discussion between the board members prior to the vote.

“They had already made up their minds,” he said.

Koehler encouraged the board during his public comments prior to the vote to approve the detachment request, even if they personally opposed it, to allow the Edina residents to continue with the process. If the board had approved the request, it would have gone to the Hennepin County Board for approval.

He also told the board during the public comment period prior to the vote that he hoped each vote would represent the democratic system of the United States.

Matthew McNeil, one of two Hopkins residents who spoke during public comment, urged the board to deny the request, stating the residents could have bought houses in the Edina school district.

“Vote against it. Really, from the bottom of my heart, vote against it,” McNeil said. He said that while he was a student at Edina High School, he knew Edina residents who went to Hopkins High School and they never wanted to join the Edina school district.

No one is forcing the residents to open enroll their children in Edina rather than send them to Hopkins schools, he said. He also pointed out that the neighborhood requesting the detachment is only a portion of northwest Edina that sits within the Hopkins school district.

“It’s about uniting a certain neighborhood and that’s it,” he said.

No apartments or commercial properties are in the detachment area and 47 of the properties are vacant lots, said Sid Voss, director of educational technology, media services and information systems.

Voss also pointed out in the presentation that the seven-county metro area includes 50 school districts and 131 cities.

“You can see little correspondence between city boundaries and school district boundaries… Edina has five different school districts within its boundaries,” he said.

The detachment area would take $557,000 in revenue out of the district, Business Services Director John Toop said. The detachment would cause an increase of $13 annually in Hopkins school district property taxes for a $200,000 home, and a decrease of $19 annually in Edina school district property taxes for a $200,000 home, he said.

Out in the hallway after the meeting, some Edina residents expressed their frustration with the denial. “It’s so skewed” and “It’s all about the money,” two residents said to each other.

Gary Jing of Edina, who moved to the neighborhood last year, said Unite Edina 273 showed data that the Hopkins schools don’t serve the neighborhood and a majority of children don’t attend Hopkins schools.

“I heard no discussion or concern about that,” he said after the meeting. He added that they are the customers and the district should be interested in how to serve them better.

Jing also said the statements about open enrollment being an option for the families is false. His family moved to the neighborhood because they couldn’t find an affordable house to buy in the Edina school district, but they could find an affordable lot to build on in Parkwood Knolls. His eighth grade son then wasn’t able to get into Edina through open enrollment and now attends a private school.

The next step for the group is to share this two year-long experience with the Legislature in January and ask them if that’s how the statute should work on detachment and annexation between school districts, Koehler said.

Legislation changing the statute passed the Minnesota House and was introduced in the Senate during the 2012 session. The change would have allowed detaching property owners to work through the process without the approval of the district school board from which they are detaching.

Unite Edina 273’s request to join the district began in October 2010, when Edina residents presented Schultz with a request to detach from the school district. The process began to ramp up, however, when the neighborhood delivered 425 petitions to Schultz’s office requesting detachment on Sept. 28, 2012.

The Hopkins School Board received a total 448 petitions, two of which weren’t able to be legally verified, from 467 parcels in the detachment area, Voss said. Nineteen didn’t submit petitions.

Two Hopkins School Board committee meetings were held prior to the Dec. 20 school board meeting, where Unite Edina 273 laid out its case for detachment.