HUGO — Work has begun on the new elementary school, which will be located west of Forest Boulevard North/Hwy 61 across from 152nd Street North. 

Plans for the new school have been underway since fall 2019, when voters approved District 624’s $326 million bond referendum. The new elementary school is estimated to cost more than  $43 million. 

The Hugo City Council unanimously approved a site plan, conditional use permit (CUP), property line adjustment (with Xcel Energy) and a development agreement for the new K-5 school April 5. 

Hugo Community Development Director Rachel Juba explained that the site is approximately 137 acres, but only 35 of those acres on the northeastern corner of the site are buildable. White Bear Area Schools will build a 100,000-square-foot elementary school and gymnasium. Street improvements, ballfields, walking trails and a playground are also planned. 

“The best qualities of urban and rural living come together in the city of Hugo.” said Paul Aplikowski of Wold Architects & Engineers. “We are really trying to embrace that and tried to embody some of that in the building to recognize the unique place you have here.” 

With the addition of the new school, Oneka Elementary will expand to grades K-5, and Hugo Elementary will become an early childhood center. The new school and Oneka Elementary will each have a capacity of 720 students. 

The district is working closely with Washington County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation on improvements to the intersection at 152nd Street and Hwy 61, which will include a traffic signal and turn lanes. 

Council Member Phil Klein wanted to know whether the district looked into water reuse options for the site. Juba explained that the stormwater ponds on the site are designed to only be full for a certain period of time. “It’s not really a good site for stormwater reuse,” she said.

The school will, however, have a large solar presence. “Everywhere we can put it on this roof there will be solar,” said Tim Wald, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance and operations. The new school will have the most solar presence of the district’s buildings, with the exception of the high school. 

A unique feature of the school will be six learning studios, three on the lower level and three on the upper level. The learning studios are meant to allow for large groups and collaborative work; at the same time, they accommodate a more intimate instruction space, said new school principal Dan Schmidt, who is currently principal at Lincoln Elementary School. 

The learning studios will be equipped with enhanced technology and include space for 

teacher offices, large group/individual work, flexible learning areas, a maker space (STEM) and special education and intervention programming. The studios are also designed to allow for collaboration between grade levels. 

“This is really exciting. I can tell you firsthand it has been a tough year for teachers, students and parents. This is an awesome project to look with optimism about what the future is going to look like in education when things return to normal,” Council Member Mike Miron said. “It appears with this (building) that ‘normal’ isn’t going to be your standard, it is pushing forward with what is going to be next.” 

Mayor Tom Weidt added, “This is a beautiful project. I think it is a great-looking building that is going to be a fantastic addition.

“When we (the city) supported the referendum back in 2019, we did it because it is very important for the future of the city to have good schools. This is going to be a fantastic addition for the high schoolers that are going to come up through Hugo schools.” 

The new school is expected to open in the fall of 2022. 

Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or citizennews@presspubs.com.

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