Change rings in start of school year

Back to school means many things for students: seeing friends, hitting the books and getting started in their activities, but there are several changes St. Croix Valley students will deal with when the new school year starts on Tuesday.

 Earlier starts and new programs

Independent School District 834 Communications Director Carissa Keister said the district has eliminated late-start days and improved their transportation system, which resulted in some earlier start times this year.

This year, Stillwater Area High School (SAHS) begins at 7:40 a.m. and Stillwater and Oak-Land Junior High schools begin at 7:50 a.m. Most elementary schools begin at 8:40 a.m. while Marine, Stonebridge and Withrow start at 8:45. Valley Crossing begins at 9:15 a.m.

Current grades K-12 enrollment in the district stands at 8,501. District officials expect  changes in enrollment numbers during the first week of school. State school district enrollment numbers are not official until Oct. 1.

Elementary schools will implement STEM programming this year. The program focuses on providing learning experiences that require students to solve real-world problems using science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Another new program this year is Project Lead the Way at the junior and senior high schools. The project aims to create a hands-on classroom using STEM principles. Students will be exposed to STEM fields through professionals from local industries who supplement the real-world aspect of the curriculum through mentorships and workplace experiences.

Once school is in session, St. Croix Preparatory Academy (SCPA) begins work on a $5 million dollar expansion that includes a performance center and new locker rooms and classrooms. SCPA also has a new start time, at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Enrollment at SPCA currently stands at 1,100.

Increased club and athletic fees

Budget cuts have driven up club and athletic fees for students in ISD 834 this year.

“Fees have increased for all sports,” Keister said. “We have a structured standard fee across sports and cost is dependent on number of games, and amount of travel.”

SAHS fall sports fees increased anywhere from $15 to $60 with girls swimming and diving, volleyball and football topping out the list at a total cost of $210. Adapted soccer and girls tennis are on the low end with a total cost of $115 and $165 respectively. Participation in soccer and cross-country it now costs $180.

Winter sports fees have increased anywhere from $45 to $135, depending on the sport. Fees for alpine and Nordic skiing cost $195; boys swimming and diving, wrestling and gymnastics cost $210, and basketball costs $240. The largest fee increase is for hockey, which now costs $285 to participate.

SAHS clubs and national organizations also feel the squeeze. Almost all club fees increased by $25, totaling in at $100. Karate, art, bowling and figure skating still cost $75. Clubs that were free — DECA, NHS and BPA — will now cost $15. Activities like drama, chamber choir, Jazz I and II, science and ski cost $70.

The junior highs are affected, too. Ninth grade football, soccer and volleyball fees all increased. Junior high students will pay $180 to participate in football and volleyball and $150 for soccer. Eighth graders will pay $115 to participate in soccer and basketball and $110 to participate in wrestling and cross-country.

There are scholarships available for families who demonstrate financial need, or those who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. More information on these scholarships can be found at or by calling 651-351-1266.

Some SCPA students will also face fee increases of 10 percent. Middle school football has increased from $250 to $275. Varsity volleyball and varsity soccer fees increased from $245 to $250.

Gazette photo by Avery Cropp
A group of girls walks up to the Stillwater Area High School entrance during new student orientation earlier this month. Independent School District 834 students return to classrooms Tuesday.

There are new faces in new places this year in ISD 834 schools. Dr. Mary Anderson oversees elementary education and Mike Redmond leads the secondary schools. Paul Lee is the new student support services director. Mark Drommerhausen has moved from principal at Andersen Elementary to principal at Lilly Lake Elementary. Malinda Lansfeldt takes Drommerhausen’s old position at Andersen Elementary. The smaller school allows Lansfeldt to focus on her new duties overseeing the new STEM program. Virginia Kruse is the new Oak Park Elementary principal.