Just like that, another successful school year is coming to an end. The 2018-19 school year has been an exciting one and the district’s story continues to unfold as the Facilities Planning Committee has finished their year-long schedule of meetings and presented a recommendation to the School Board. This committee, with more than 90 parents, staff and community members, has been critical in conversations when discussing the future of the district. This experience has given me the opportunity to engage with families, staff and community members through conversations both formal and informal. The connections, both spontaneous and planned, are something I look forward to seeing happen a lot in the coming weeks and months. I welcome the discussions because each one brings a bit of shared understanding about where we may be going as a district and as a community.
Our projected enrollment growth makes the facilities conversations necessary. The decades-long, unfinished community dialogue about our current two-campus high school system makes it the right time to look at the programmatic realities and possibilities, as well.
After much consideration and careful study of the District’s Strategic Plan, enrollment projections, maintenance needs and capacity analyses of current facilities, and the future of educational programs, the Facilities Planning Committee unanimously landed on a plan to present to the School Board at a recent Work-Study meeting in April.
The most simple description of the committee’s recommendation includes:
•A new K-5 elementary school being built in Hugo.
•Oneka becoming a K-5 elementary and Hugo Elementary becoming a northern Early Childhood location,
•The current North Campus receiving an addition to allow it to become the site of a single 9-12 high school building.
•Sunrise Park Middle School moving to the current South Campus location.
•Sunrise Park Middle School becoming the site for the programs currently at Normandy Park (Senior Center and Early Childhood Center), the district office, and the Transition Education Center currently located in leased space in Hugo.
•Central Middle School expanding to take over the current District Center building.
The committee’s recommendation also includes additional facilities projects at locations that need additional space, and updated furniture in all district classrooms to create flexible learning spaces. The domino-effect built into the plan makes it complicated, and the comprehensive nature means it touches each of our buildings.
A part of the committee’s recommendation that has been a point of discussion in recent weeks is the future District Center, which is currently located in the 100-year-old White Bear Lake High School. With Central Middle School expanding into the space, the building will once again house students. The committee’s plan presented to the School Board in April included a discussion of Central Middle School (including the current District Center) being replaced at some point in the future, potentially 10-20 years out. The current board and district administration has not accepted that portion of the plan, due to the cost and the historical significance of the building.
In order for the recommended set of projects to become a reality, it would require a successful bond referendum that could potentially be held this fall. The School Board will be deciding over the summer whether to put a bond referendum on the ballot.
We hope that you will take the time to learn about what’s in store, with many details of the project available on the district’s recently redesigned website at https://www.isd624.org/about/facilities-planning. We are excited for where the future will bring us, and we’re looking forward to be going there alongside the community.
Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak, Superintendent of White Bear Lake Area Schools