Expansion plans approved for two Anoka schools

The Anoka City Council has approved site plans to expand two of the city’s elementary schools.

Franklin and Lincoln elementary schools will all see permanent additions, largely to accommodate state-mandated all day, everyday kindergarten.

Franklin and Lincoln schools also needed approval for conditional use permits because both are non-conforming buildings in their zoning districts, according to Planning Director Carolyn Braun.

“When something happens at the school then we bring it up to date and make it conforming by going through the conditional use process,” Braun said.

Both conditional use permits and site plans were unanimously approved by the council.

At Franklin Elementary School the addition will consist of approximately 3,600 square feet on each of three fours.

The addition will replace portable classrooms on the west side of the building, which will be removed, Braun said.

Franklin was originally built in 1915 and the last addition to the building was done in 1959.

“Five years ago honestly I never thought we would be here looking at an expansion of Franklin,” said Chuck Holden, chief operations officer for the Anoka-Hennepin School District. “Five years ago we were looking at closing Franklin. It was the number one school on our short list.”

Holden said he doesn’t expect much of a change to staffing as the result of all day, every day kindergarten required for all students, beyond the addition of a teacher or two.

Along with the addition, the entire school will become handicap accessible, he aid.

The majority of the cost for the needed expansions at six elementary schools in the district will come from lease levy funds approved for portable classrooms, which are being reduced and eliminated districtwide.

At Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts, the addition will be 5,000 square feet on two levels.

Holden said this will be a chance to alleviate some space challenges the district now has at Lincoln.

“That school has really been at capacity and lacking a computer lab and several teachers teaching on the stage area,” he said.

The addition will get those teachers and students in better classrooms and offices, Holden said.

“This is a pretty exciting project and a beautiful addition to the school,” he said.

There are also plans to upgrade the windows in the Lincoln building, but it will not be part of the expansion project because it is too cost prohibitive, Holden said.

Both expansions are on the fast track to start as soon as possible in the spring and wrap up mid-August in time for the 2014-2015 school year.

Councilmember Jeff Weaver called both Franklin and Lincoln schools important parts of the community.

“Those schools are really the anchors in those neighborhoods,” Weaver said. “These investments in these historic buildings in Anoka is marvelous stuff.”

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]