Now that the White Bear Lake Area School's $326 million bond referendum has passed, Hugo can expect a new elementary school to likely open in fall 2022. The new one-campus high school in White Bear Lake will probably open in fall 2024.
The bond referendum, one of the largest district asks in state history, passed by voters at about 57%, or 8,536, votes on Nov. 5. About 43%, or 6,336, voted no.
Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak said he was crossing his fingers going into election night but knew the district had worked really hard to inform the community about the bond and what it would mean for students.
“There was obviously strong support through the entire school district, and the margin of victory was pretty substantial,” he said. “It is pretty exciting to think about how many students are going to be positively impacted by this for generations to come.”
With the money, White Bear Lake Area Schools plans to build a new elementary school in Hugo, expand North Campus to house all high school grades and construct upgrades at all other schools.
The plans include the relocation of Sunrise Park Middle School to South Campus. Sunrise will become an early childhood center, transition center and senior center, and will house district offices.
The vacated District Center, where the district offices are currently, will be an expansion for Central Middle School. Oneka Elementary in Hugo will become a K-5 school and Hugo Elementary an early childhood center. Districtwide safety and security improvements, as well as flexible learning spaces, are also part of the plans.
“The community has come together and given the school district the ability to help with schools of the future,” said School Board Chair Don Mullin. “All the way around, I just think this is really the community coming in and saying here is what we want the district to be for the future.”
Mullin said he has two children in high school, one at North Campus and one at South Campus, so they won't get to experience the one-campus high school but he is excited for other children who will. He recently spoke with a father of a second grader and kindergartner who expressed thankfulness that his children will be able to experience high school together in one building, he noted.
Now that the bond has passed, design and construction plans will get underway. The district has already started working with a planning team and a construction schedule should soon be in place, Mullin said.
Just like the district's recent strategic planning process and facilities planning that brought the bond idea forth, the district plans to create opportunities for community members to give input into the design process. The opportunity to essentially build a new high school in a school district as old as White Bear will require a process to think about what it could look like, he noted. “We want to make sure we are informing the design process with sound educational practices,” he said.
“Results are better when you have more people involved,” he added. “That was strength of the plan put before people in the community. ... It was a solid plan and well thought out and the result of months of hard work by lots of people.”
The plans for the bond referendum were put forth by a 90-member committee that met last school year. The facility planning committee of staff, parents and community members came to a consensus on the plans after discussing five options for high school and elementary configurations to meet growing enrollment needs. The facilities planning was prompted by the district's recent strategic planning. The district projects that more than 2,000 new students will enroll during the next 10 years due to housing growth. The growth will be 25% higher than current capacity.
The district expects to begin the design process for the new elementary school in Hugo this school year and break ground on the new elementary school in Hugo next fall. It is hoped it would open by fall of 2022. The district had purchase agreements on land, contingent on passage of the bond, in place earlier this year. The school will be located just north of the post office west of Highway 61.
It is hoped ground will be broken for the one-campus high school in fall of 2020 or spring of 2021. It may open in fall of 2024. The district will have to schedule other building moves around the North Campus construction plans. The bus garage will be moved from the current site on North Campus. The district is currently looking at land in Hugo as a possible new location.
The biggest line items in the bond are the expansion of North Campus at about $179 million and the new elementary school in Hugo at $43 million. The district plans to spend about $17.1 million renovating Sunrise into a new District Center. New classroom and media center furniture for the whole district is expected to cost about $13.6 million. Renovations to South Campus to accommodate a middle school will cost about $13.2 million.
The tax impact for the $326 million in voter-approved bonds on a $275,000 home will be an increase of $280 per year, according to board documents. For a $1 million commercial building, it will be about $1,300. The tax rate will increase from about 25 to 35 percent. The bond increase will begin in January 2020 and stay level to 2044.