Old School

by | Apr 2017

The first school in what was to become Woodbury was a church school held in the home of William Middleton, one of the area's earliest settlers.

The first school in what was to become Woodbury was a church school held in the home of William Middleton, one of the area’s earliest settlers. Photo: Woodbury Heritage Society

A look back at more than 50 years of schooling in Woodbury.

The growth of our community has always been shaped and defined by the families who move here.  As Woodbury celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017, it’s interesting to look back over the city’s growth through the lens of the local public school systems.

Long before South Washington County Schools (District 833) could say it was the sixth largest school district in Minnesota, a settler named William Middleton held a school in his Woodbury home in 1852. Between 1855 and 1867, seven one-room schools were organized for students in grades one through eight.

The territory, originally known as Red Rock, was organized into a township in 1858 and eventually renamed Woodbury. The townships of Cottage Grove and Newport were also established. “In the 1800s, it took just five families to make up a school within their township,” says Barbara Brown, communications director for South Washington County Schools. “Once growth began in the territory, schools and school districts emerged.”

“Because of their origins in a variety of townships, the now clear city and county lines were crossed,” Brown says. “In 1950, regardless of city lines and at the time the state mandated consolidation, there were 16 separate districts that made up what is now South Washington County Schools.”

This push for consolidation in the early 1950s helped improve efficiency, economy and consistency in schools and eventually created the districts as they are known today. In addition to South Washington County Schools, parts of the community are today served by Stillwater Area Schools (District 834) and North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale (District 622).

Following a boom in population and urban development in the 1960s, Woodbury voted to incorporate in 1967. The district’s history book, A History of District 833: Growing and Thriving in South Washington County, written by Susanna Meyer and published in 2002, notes, “Elementary enrollment was growing by 350 to 400 new students a year between 1958 and 1962. Total enrollment in 1960 was 2,683 students, and the enrollment prediction for 1970 was for more than 10,000 students.”

In 1965, District 833’s new Park High School opened in Cottage Grove with 919 students, moving from its original St. Paul Park location where it had been since 1926. Kindergarten rooms opened in the district in 1970 following a controversial vote, and Woodbury High School opened in 1974-75.

Woodbury has seen tremendous growth with boundaries shifting to accommodate the growth. “I began in the district in 1991 as a student teacher and was hired as a teacher in the fall of 1992,” says Julie Nielsen, South Washington County Schools’ assistant superintendent for academic excellence and accountability. “Bailey, Middleton and Grey Cloud Elementary Schools were just opening, and on my drive up County Road 19 there were farms and fields. Those spaces now are filled with a sea of houses.”

Today the 84 square miles of District 833 serves all or parts of Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park, and Afton, Denmark and Grey Cloud Island Townships. The district serves more than 18,000 students in pre-K–12—9,411 of whom live in Woodbury.


Woodbury Elementary School             1961
Royal Oaks Elementary                       1967
Woodbury Middle School                    1970
Woodbury High School                        1974
Bailey Elementary School                    1991
Middleton Elementary School              1991
Lake Middle School                              1995
Valley Crossing Community School     1996
Red Rock Elementary School               2002
Liberty Ridge Elementary School         2003
East Ridge High School                        2009

Woodbury is also home to two parochial schools, New Life Academy and St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School, and charter schools, Math and Science Academy and Woodbury Leadership Academy. Crosswinds Middle School serves several east metro area school districts. Brookview Elementary School (District 834) will open in 2017.


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