It has been some two years in the making, but the renovation of the Sandburg Education Center is almost complete.
Most recently home to middle school students, today the 108-year-old building is home to some 100 Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 employees, a variety of community education classes and on Monday (Sept. 24) school board meetings.
For those familiar with the Sandburg building, built in 1904, change is evident as soon as they walk up to the front door.
That’s because to make the building handicap accessible, the entrance was moved to ground level.
“The most important need was to make it (the Sandburg building) handicap accessible,” said Chuck Holden, District 11 chief operations officer.
To do that, the former split entry of the building, with a entryway and stairs leading directly up or down, was eliminated. The entryway has been made larger, with an elevator and stairs leading to the building’s upper levels.
In addition to changes in the entrance, care has been taken to preserve the building’s history while transforming it into an administrative building.
Windows have been replaced and changed to the original size. Woodwork has been kept or replicated to the 10-inch baseboards.
In the stairwells, all the original woodwork and hand rails remain. A landing overlooking the staircase, where a principal once stood watching students during passing time, has been uncovered from beneath the drywall encasing it for years, to reveal original woodwork as well.
The former library has been transformed into the school board meeting room.
Original doors and windows as well as the librarian’s desk remain, intertwined with modern technology allowing building meetings to be broadcast and recorded.
The board room is designed to hold 120, with capacity for more visitors if needed.
Hallways outside the board room will showcase historical photos from the school, district and Anoka area, “just to give a sense of history of Anoka,” Holden said.
Beneath the freshly painted walls is the original lathe and plaster throughout the building.
On the third floor, classrooms have been transformed into meeting rooms, with original hardwood floors refinished and some chalkboards remaining.
Other classrooms on the second floor are now offices, with lockers now housing employees’ coats rather than student backpacks and books.
The former principal’s office has also been turned into office space for special education evaluation teams.
Prior to moving to the Sandburg Education Center, these offices were housed at the Ferry Street location, which now is home to district administration.
Sandburg’s east end is open to the community with gym and classroom space dedicated to community education classes.
The school’s former cafeteria, housed in the building’s basement, will eventually be turned to meeting space as well.
“The building has a huge capacity but we’re going to be limited by parking,” Holden said about Sandburg Education Center, located at 1902 Second Ave. in Anoka.
The renovation of Sandburg is nearly complete, with some facade and window replacement work planned for early next summer. All told, Holden said the project is expected to come in $1 million under budget with project costs totaling some $5 million.
Work on the building began a year ago after a year of planning.
“We’re just really proud of it,” Holden said about the renovation. “We’ve found good uses for the building.”
With all the changes at Sandburg, Holden said the community is curious to see the finished product. To allow that, an open house is planned for sometime in October where the building will be open to the public for tours.
Kelly Johnson is at firstname.lastname@example.org