New programs planned for Anoka, Coon Rapids high schools

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.
In addition to its biomedical program, Coon Rapids High School will run an engineering program beginning next year. File photo
In addition to its biomedical program, Coon Rapids High School will run an engineering program beginning next year. File photo

The Anoka-Hennepin School District intends to roll out two specialty programs at Anoka and Coon Rapids high schools.Anoka High School will be home to the district’s first Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program, giving students attending Lincoln Elementary School for the Arts and Anoka Middle School for the Arts the opportunity to build on their arts education in a specialty program, as well as harness their creativity in ways they may not have yet explored, like computer programming.

Coon Rapids High School will duplicate the highly successful Center for Engineering, Mathematics and Science program at Blaine High School, giving students access to courses that will prepare them for a career in engineering.

Both specialty programs will enroll students this winter and begin in the fall of 2017.

Once established, specialty programs like these generally run about $200,000 annually, according to Michelle Vargas, chief financial officer in the district.

“By clustering these programs at a specific site, it’s more cost effective,” Vargas said.


The School Board approved the STEAM program as a strategic investment last year, and work to establish the program for the 2017-2018 school year was in full swing by summer.

“It’s coming along nicely,” said Laura BeMent, curriculum integration coordinator for the program.

BeMent met with a number of community partners, including Lyric Arts, Medtronic, Minnesota Opera, Pentair, Wells Fargo and more, to learn about the skill sets they are looking for in a future work force.

“We asked a lot of questions and did a lot of listening,” BeMent said.

Community partners will continue to serve as advisors as the program grows and changes as marketplaces do, BeMent said.

She hopes students will be able to turn to these community partners when they complete a senior experience – an internship, mentorship or project related to a specific career path in which they have an interest in pursuing.

The goal is to enroll 120 freshmen in the program ahead of next school year.

BeMent visited with all Anoka Middle School for the Arts eighth-graders before Thanksgiving break, and interest forms have been coming in with STEAM areas of interest running the gamut – from dance to mathematics, design to manufacturing.

The program will serve two purposes, according to Superintendent David Law: extending the arts strand through Anoka and clustering resources on computer programming, which the district recognizes there is an interest in and demand for.

STEAM Foundations, Computer Skills for STEAM and Design and Fabrication courses will be available for students to take as soon as next year, but courses will be added annually. Integrated Engineering for STEAM, Project Lead the Way Computer Science Principles and a dance program for STEAM students are offerings that will hopefully begin in 2018-2019, according to BeMent.

An information night is set to take place at Anoka High School Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit or contact BeMent at 763-506-6399 or [email protected]

Engineering at CRHS

The School Board will consider funding a new engineering program at Coon Rapids High School as a strategic priority in January, though plans are already underway to introduce the program for the 2017-2018 school year.

The engineering program will be a replica of the CEMS program at Blaine High School, which is at capacity.

Annually, between 40 and 45 students leave Coon Rapids High School to participate in Blaine’s CEMS program, according to Lana Rice, curriculum integration coordinator for the biomedical sciences program.

“A lot of the community and Coon Rapids High School parents have said, ‘Well why don’t we offer (engineering courses) here,’” Rice said.

CEMS programs are the most popular in the Northwest Suburban Integration School District, of which Anoka-Hennepin is a member district, according to Law.

“They have the highest demand and not enough seats,” he said.

To accommodate students with a desire to take engineering courses, a sister program will open at CRHS, and Rice hopes that the 40-some students who leave for Blaine annually can be recaptured. Accepting 60 freshmen students would be ideal to run two full sections, Rice said.

“We’ve had really good response so far,” she said.

The engineering program will complement the biomedical sciences program, which began in 2013, but remain distinct, according to Rice. Approximately 250 high school students participate in the biomedical sciences program today.

Students entering the engineering program at CRHS will enroll in a Project Lead the Way engineering design course, Computer Skills for Biomed and Engineering and Honors Physics 9 Engineering, with a recommendation to also take Honors English 9.

An information night is scheduled to occur at the high school Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.

For more information, visit or contact Rice at 763-506-7359 or [email protected]

[email protected]