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An elementary school near Stillwater may close after the land its on was sold.

The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, which owns the land on which River Grove Elementary School in Wilder Forest near Marine on St. Croix sits, announced on Sept. 28 it would be selling.

The buyer is another nonprofit, Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership, which intends to use the property for summer camps and winter retreats, and as a result River Grove is facing either moving or closing for good.

An effort to save the school in the form of a $11 million offer to buy the land by the Manitou Fund, which had agreed to extend River Grove's lease as a condition of the purchase, reportedly came too late, with Amherst instead selling to the religious nonprofit. 

The school's lease of 600 acres of Wilder Foundation-owned land was set to expire in June 2023, according to the nonprofit. The land is surrounded by property that makes up Wilder Forest, as seen in this 2019-2020 map.

Parents have shared their discontent, creating a petition to have the nonprofit reconsider the sale of the grounds. As of Wednesday, the petition has collected over 850 signatures.

"I stand for land preservation and conservation and our Stillwater community needs River Grove and more schools like it! Educating more diverse kids on land stewardship is what the world needs, not just ones of a single faith. This whole situation is just heartbreaking," one community member who signed the petition said.

The sale of the land also impacts Big River Farms, a program that supports populations that have difficulty accessing resources to establish farms due to systemic racism and xenophobia, according to its website.

"It's concerning that evicting a nationally recognized charter school AND a space for recent immigrant arrivals to farm is in line with Amherst H. Wilder Foundation's mission," one person wrote in a Facebook comment. "Especially as an $11 million offer to purchase the land and keep the school and farm open was flatly rejected."

It's been previously reported by the Star Tribune that the sale of the land would help the foundation pay for the work is conducts helping people in need in the St. Paul area.

According to the nonprofit's website, Wilder "prioritizes efforts and resources to support children, families and older adults through essential services."

The foundation wrote a letter to the community last week, providing the update on the sale of the land.

"We empathize with the concerns expressed by parents and administrators of River Grove. At the same time, we are confident that we have acted in good faith with all parties involved and will continue to do so. We know this sale will directly impact the lives of thousands of people through Wilder’s services as well as the youth that will be served by Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership," the Wilder Foundation wrote.

Minnesota Catholic Youth Partnership is expected to connect with the school and other tenants leasing space on the property to take a look at "potential arrangements" that could benefit everyone.

According to the school's website, applications are still being accepted for the 2022-2023 school year.

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