Tentatively planning to build two new elementary schools, the Anoka-Hennepin School District has acquired land in Blaine and is now pursuing purchase agreements for land in Ramsey.
The district bought 37 acres at 4501 125th Ave. NE in Blaine in January for $2.8 million and is looking to obtain 34 acres of farmland currently held by two property owners near 170th Avenue and Nowthen Boulevard in Ramsey.
One purchase agreement is in place, but a second is still being worked out, according to Chuck Holden, chief operations officer for the school district.
The plan is to build two-story, 1,000-student elementary schools, similar to Oxbow Creek Elementary in Champlin and Rum River Elementary in Andover, in both Blaine and Ramsey.
“We’ve spent a lot of design time on the two new elementary schools, which will be a big portion of the proposed referendum,” Holden said.
The Fit For the Future Task Force, a group of 32 parents, community members and district staff members, began meeting in April 2016 to study community growth and enrollment projections, capacity of schools, staffing ratios, future program needs, school boundaries, transportation, condition of schools, technology infrastructure and finances.
In January 2017, the body made nine recommendations, including one to swiftly present a referendum to voters.
Another recommendation was to purchase land to build elementary and middle schools in the fastest growing areas of the district, which the task force identified as Blaine, Dayton and Ramsey.
A time line developed by administrators allows for residents to vote on a bond referendum Nov. 7, 2017. Specifics have not been determined and will tentatively be shared will the School Board April 24.
Community meetings will take place at each of the five traditional high schools in that latter half of May before questions are finalized in July.
“Everything about this is moving fast,” Holden said.
Projects following the referendum
If voters approve the referendum and all proceeds smoothly, construction on new elementary schools would likely begin next spring so that buildings could open their doors ahead of the 2019-2020 school year, according to Holden.
Additionally, work is necessary at all five high schools, particularly if portable classrooms are to be removed, another task force recommendation.
“We’re finding a lot of like issues in our high schools,” Holden said. “They’re just undersized.”
Coon Rapids High School is the oldest, built in 1963. Anoka and Blaine high schools are similarly aged, built in 1971 and 1972, respectively. Champlin Park High School went up in 1992, and Andover High School was constructed 15 years ago in 2002.
Andover, Blaine and Champlin Park high schools each have 12 portable classrooms, and Anoka has eight, according to the Fit For the Future Task Force’s final report.
A next step would be discussing possible improvements at elementary and middle schools.
On average, school buildings are about 50 years old and need upgrades, Holden said.