October 31, 2017 07:03 PM
The largest school district in the state, Anoka-Hennepin, is one of 70 districts asking voters for money one week from Tuesday. And the ask is significant: nearly $250 million for building projects, making it the largest request for a district ever.
For nearly two years, the school district has been studying its growth. A community task force was established to study where families are moving in the district, and as such, how resources should be allocated.
That information is now being used in the district's Fit For the Future Referendum.
"Houses are turning over in older neighborhoods, and new growth is happening where we have open space," said Superintendent David Law. "It's good, we just need space for those kids."
Two 38-acre plots have been purchased to build new elementary schools in Blaine and Ramsey, two of the fastest growing areas in the district. If the two options don't pass via referendum, the district would have the option to sell the land.
A portion of the $249 million would also be used to renovate some middle schools, and all five high schools.
Four of the 5 high schools in the district have portable classrooms; at Champlin Park High School, students leave the building, walk down the sidewalk and across a parking lot to get to their classrooms.
And that makes security an issue.
"About every 70 minutes, about 700 kids have to walk across the parking lot to classrooms," Law said. "Our community said that is not acceptable."
Asked about the safety of such a layout, Law said, "It's not my preference, and certainly it's a lot less comfortable today than it was in 1990, that's all there is to it."
The district wants to get rid of all 62 portable classrooms, as well as update science labs, media centers and add more flexible learning spaces for students.
Law was asked what he'd say to the taxpayer who says the referendums aren't necessary.
"Well, we have growth," he said. "Across our system we just don't have any pocket of space to absorb another 700 to 900 elementary students."
The district is also asking to increase its per-pupil funding by $226 at a total cost of $95 million over 10 years.
That money would go toward learning -- things like technology and teachers that would reduce class sizes, which at the high school level can range from 30 to 40 students.
The district says there is no organized "vote no" group opposed to the proposals.
In fact, with early voting, more than 1,000 people have already cast ballots.
Updated: October 31, 2017 07:03 PM
Created: October 31, 2017 03:50 PM
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