A new elementary school serving special needs children is coming to Blaine.
The Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 has 10 member districts in the north and east metro area, including the Centennial and Spring Lake Park school districts, but it serves students from about 50 school districts.
It is planning to construct a 70,000 square-foot building on the southwest corner of Hamline and 95th avenues, just east of I-35W.
The district began a facilities study in 2006. An increase in special education student referrals and the desire to consolidate several special education sites located throughout the district into a single site drove the push for a new school, according to a presentation District 916 Superintendent Connie Hayes made to the Spring Lake Park School District last year.
District 916 Business Manager Kristine Carr and Special Education Director Dan Nardicz made an initial presentation to the Blaine City Council during a Sept. 13, 2012 workshop meeting.
According to information from this meeting and a follow-up letter to the city, the building could ultimately hold about 150 kindergarten through eighth-grade students. Each student would essentially have one teacher, so there could be up to 300 people in the building someday.
The initial project is the school will open with 95 students and 88 staff, however. The age range of the kids would be five to 13 years old and they would be Level 4 special education students who have been diagnosed with autism or an emotional or behavioral disorder.
Although there was support for building the school in Blaine, the council and city staff had tried to find another location instead of the business park in which District 916 will now be building.
The concern was that District 916 does not have to pay property taxes because it is a public institution and the city preferred to keep this site for a private commercial development.
None of the other suggested sites fit the school’s needs, however. One site was near the Metro Gun Club and Carr said autistic students would be sensitive to the sound of gunfire.
Nardicz said the goal is to have an outdoor learning environment for the students.
The council ultimately signed off on the development of this 19-acre site by the school, but it needed to be rezoned from planned business district to development flex. The council also approved a conditional use permit last month and was set to vote on the final plat at Thursday’s meeting (April 4).
To offer a little bit of compensation to the city for the lost property taxes, District 916 agreed to pay at least $15,000 annually, which will be increased 2 percent each year for inflation. The school will also be paying the commercial rate for park dedication fees. This equals $101,408, according to Planning and Community Development Director Bryan Schafer.
The school will include 20 classrooms, a kitchen, media area, art room, indoor playground and a gym. There would be a connection to an outdoor play area and garden. The play area would be surrounded by a six-foot high, non-climbable chain link fence.
The typical school day would be from either 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The students would be transported by bus by their home district, so it is not anticipated that there would be after hours or weekend activities at the school.
“This is going to be a terrific thing for the young kids,” Mayor Tom Ryan said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]
Staff writer Elyse Kaner contributed to this story