By Elyse Kaner – ABC NEWSPAPERS
Spring Lake Park District 16 is positioning to add 16 new classrooms to two of its schools and to move Woodcrest Elementary School students and staff from Fridley to Park Terrace Elementary in Spring Lake Park for the next school year.
District 16 serves students in Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.
The district’s growing Spanish Immersion program would be relocated from Westwood Intermediate in Blaine to Woodcrest.
The board Tuesday night in its regular meeting unanimously approved a resolution to submit a proposal to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education for building the additions and for related modifications and improvements. The resolution also provided a method to finance the projects.
The move was in answer to a much researched, two-year study on district facilities and how to handle what some districts might envy, a growth in student enrollment.
A demographer hired by the district has projected a 20 percent increase in enrollment for the district in the next eight to 10 years. That would put the district with a current enrollment of about 5,300 students at about 6,400 students, including the learning alternatives program and the Lighthouse Program for gifted students (both experiencing increased enrollment).
Meanwhile, Northpoint and Woodcrest are now operating at near capacity, while Westwood schools are poised to see a significant enrollment increase over the next five years because of the larger elementary classes passing through the system.
Because of enrollment growth in the Spanish Immersion program and a lack of space, this is the last year the program will be housed at Westwood Intermediate.
“In the end, it came down to, we had a lot more students than we had room for,” said Amy Schultz, District 16’s business manager in a Master Facilities and Programming Update report presented before the board voted.
The facility changes were driven by key points: To address growth and placement of choice options, specifically the Spanish Immersion program; to use facilities more effectively; to effectively manage current and future enrollment trends; to improve balance of student socioeconomic demographics to effectively meet the needs of students; and to use resources effectively.
At one point, a design team of school principals, administrators and transportation officials, looked into identifying 40 boundary scenarios, which with a parent input team narrowed the options to six. The choices were narrowed to three and, ultimately, to one, Option A.
Under the proposed plan submitted to the education department, Park Terrace and Northpoint elementarys would undergo expansion.
At Park Terrace Elementary, 10 rooms would be added. Among them, eight would be classrooms, one specialist room and one center-based space, for such programs as helping students with emotional behavior disorders.
Park Terrace’s cafeteria would undergo expansion. The main entry would remain unchanged, but improvements in the parking lot would separate the parent drop-off point from the bus drop-off area.
“It will improve the flow for the parent drop-off,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said at the board meeting.
Additionally, parking space would be added at the school for both visitors and staff.
At Northpoint, six classrooms would be added, including one specialist room, three classrooms and two center-based spaces.
The plan includes a modification to the original Option A plan. Under the original plan, the district had opted for adding eight classrooms at Park Terrace and four classrooms at Northpoint. The modified plan adds two more classrooms at both schools.
The plan, aligning with the original Option A, calls for Park Terrace and Northpoint remaining K-3 schools and Woodcrest would become a K-5 Spanish Immersion school.
The board-approved option includes the following:
• Classrooms would be added at Northpoint and Park Terrace elementaries for the fall of 2013.
• Woodcrest Elementary students and staff would move to Park Terrace starting in the 2013-14 school year.
• The Spanish Immersion (SI) program would be moved from Westwood Intermediate to Woodcrest Elementary and serve as a K-5 program. It is now a K-3 program with plans to add one class level per year up to grade five.
• Early childhood programming would continue at Woodcrest.
Woodcrest was selected for the SI program as the most effective placement because the school does not require an addition and space would be used optimally as the program grows into a K-5 program.
“If SI were placed at Park Terrace or Northpoint, the respective facility would be under used, requiring greater costs in facilities at other sites,” according to the master facilities update.
Intermediate-term plans in the fall of 2016 or 2017 would call for up to two additional classrooms at Westwood Intermediate and two to four classrooms at Westwood Middle School.
A long-term plan within six to 10 years would find likely space needs for the Learning Alternatives Community School now housed in the older two-story section of SLP High School on the Able Street side of the building. Additional facility space needs may be possible, according to the report.
The district has been working with Wold Architects, who performed an analysis of all K-12 schools and district facilities.
Projected costs for construction at Park Terrace and Northpoint are estimated at $5.8 million.
Two million dollars would come from remaining funds from existing bond proceeds authorized by voters in a 2006 referendum for construction and renovations. A total of $3.8 million would be paid from lease purchase.
The district’s goal is to keep the lease levy at or near its current level. The administration continues to review existing obligations to minimize taxpayer impact and to position the district for future facility and capital needs, according to the report.
District 16 continues the facilities and programming study with plans to implement the changes.
During the next few weeks, plans will be refined and finalized. User groups will provide input.
The plans will delve deeper into transportation, student transitions, staffing, center-based programming placement and reviewing playground needs at Park Terrace.
In spring of 2013, a long-term master facilities and programming plan will be presented to the board.
For more information on the master facilities and programming update, visit springlakeparkschools.org.
Elyse Kaner is at email@example.com.