White Bear Lake Area Schools found more preferable land for a new elementary school in Hugo.
Purchase agreements for two parcels of land just north of the post office west of Highway 61 were approved by the school board at its Aug. 12 meeting. Purchase agreements for four properties located on Everton Avenue N. just north of Frenchman Road in western Hugo were executed this winter. Those agreements have now been rescinded.
“The land under consideration will better meet the needs of the district for a variety of reasons, including site location and access, total acreage, quality of soil, and anticipated overall cost,” the district stated.
Details of the new purchase agreements were discussed during a closed meeting. According to Washington County property records, the parcels are almost 140 acres together. The larger agricultural and residential parcel is about 133 acres and its 2019 total property value is listed at about $1 million. A 4-acre residential property next to it is listed as worth a total of about $313,000.
Much of the land is wetland, said Superintendent Wayne Kazmierczak. “There is 30 to 35 really good acres of buildable land there.”
The agreements are contingent on passage of the district's $326 million bond referendum in November, according to the district. The land would be used for a new K-5 school, budgeted at $43.2 million for land and the building.
According to the bond referendum plans, Oneka Elementary will be converted from a grade 2-5 school into a K-5 school. Hugo Elementary would be converted from K-1 to an early childhood center. Kindergarten through fifth grade enrollment at Hugo and Oneka elementary schools could nearly double within a decade, according to a recent enrollment projection study.
The changes are part of a plan that would bring updates to every building in the district. Other big changes that are part of the plans include expanding North Campus to house all high school grades. Sunrise Park Middle School would be moved to South Campus. Sunrise would become an early childhood center, transition center and senior center, and would house district offices. The vacated District Center, where the district offices are currently, would be an expansion for Central Middle School. Districtwide safety and security improvements, as well as flexible learning spaces, are also part of the plans. The plans were put forth by a 90-member facilities committee that met this winter.
The district projects that more than 2,000 new students will move into the district during the next 10 years due to housing growth. The growth will be 25% higher than current capacity. New homes in the northern part of the district and turnover of homes in the southern part of the district will both contribute to the growth.