District 11 discusses high school additions

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.

Architects presented preliminary renderings of additions to all five traditional high schools in the Anoka-Hennepin School District at the School Board’s April 10 work session.

A proposed addition to Blaine High School will add just under 53,500 square feet of space and enhance the building’s appearance. Rendering courtesy of Mike Kraft
A proposed addition to Blaine High School will add just under 53,500 square feet of space and enhance the building’s appearance. Rendering courtesy of Mike Kraft

Proposed plans for two new elementary schools in Blaine and Ramsey were also presented.

The Fit for the Future Task Force, a group of 32 parents, community members and district employees, began meeting a year ago 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.

The group presented nine recommendations to the School Board in January, most of which related to the capacity and condition of current school buildings. Each existing building needs to be reviewed and renovated “to meet 21st century student needs and make the schools appealing inside and out,” one task force recommendation stated. Another noted that portable classrooms should be removed.

Most portable classrooms are located on high school campuses. Andover, Blaine and Champlin Park high schools each have 12, and Anoka High School has eight portable classrooms.

Andover High School has been at capacity with around 1,700 students since it opened in 2002.

Adding classrooms to the southwest corner of the building, near the auditorium, would allow Andover to eliminate its portables.

ATS&R architects presented plans to double the size of the gymnasium, as well as the weight room and fitness room.

“All of our weight rooms and fitness rooms are too small,” said Chuck Holden, chief operations officer.

The cafeteria would also be expanded.

At Champlin Park High School, built in 1992, classrooms would be added along the west side of the building, and athletics and fine arts programming would see additional space on the southeast corner of the building.

Additions and other interior renovations would be the primary focus at Andover and Champlin Park, two of the newer buildings in the district.

“They don’t need exterior face-lifts,” Holden said.

But Anoka, Blaine and Coon Rapids high schools could use some freshening up.

Additions at Anoka and Blaine will increase the image of the school, hiding concrete, said architect Mike Kraft, who runs his own architecture firm locally, Mike Kraft Architects.

“I was always told there was a shortage of bricklayers,” Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann said.

But “concrete really was a high design material back then,” Kraft said, referring to the early 1970s when Anoka and Blaine high schools were constructed.

Now more than 40 years old, “they’re certainly showing their age,” Kraft said.

And Blaine is overcrowded with 2,864 students.

“The students eat lunch on top of the lockers,” Kraft said.

A 3,800-square-foot addition would allow for the cafeteria to grow by 40 percent, and another 49,600 square feet will add 19 classrooms and new spaces for dance and weight training. The majority of the addition would extend from the existing entryway, south along the west side of the school. Additional classrooms would be built on the northeast corner of the building.

Anoka High School would see a very similar 34,600-square-foot addition from its entryway, south toward the field house, as well as an expanded cafeteria.

“They’re not in crisis to the same extent that Blaine is,” Kraft said.

At Coon Rapids High School, the oldest high school building in the district, aged 54 years, updates are sorely needed.

And the building could use some design clarity with families and visitors having to walk down long hallways from the main entrance to reach the auditorium and field house.

Kraft proposed the main entrance be relocated to what is currently Door 9 near the auditorium. Made of glass and significantly taller than the rest of the building, the entrance would be highly visible.

Space would be reconfigured so that families and visitors, as well as students, could make their way through open space from Door 9 past the auditorium and into the cafeteria and field house. Then the building could be locked down for after-school events, something school staff has requested.

“It brings a logic to the layout of the school,” Kraft said.

Designs for two new elementary schools, also recommended by the task force, and plans for additions at the high schools are very preliminary. And those are only the beginning.

“We have a lot of buildings to work through,” Holden said.

The district is on a tight timeline with hopes to open new schools by the 2019-2020 school year.

Holden said he doesn’t know if two elementary schools and five high school additions can be built at the same time, and he is unable to provide a cost estimate at this point.

Bond and levy options are supposed to go before the School Board April 24, according to a referendum timeline developed by staff several months ago.

Community meetings will follow in May at each of the five traditional high schools so that residents can hear not only about new elementary schools and high school additions, but also about improvements at elementary and middle schools through the district, before a referendum question is finalized in July.

Meetings are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. the following evenings:

-May 17, Champlin Park High School.

-May 18, Coon Rapids High School.

-May 24, Andover High School.

-May 25, Anoka High School.

-May 30, Blaine High School.

The public will likely vote on a bond referendum Nov. 7, 2017.

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  • GladUCame

    I Predict That In The Future, High Schools Won’t Be Built Because They Will Be Too Cost Prohibited.
    Each Year Ahead, Students Are Getting Less Interested In Sports, Eliminating The Need For Costly Gymnasiums And The Extra Land Needed For Football Fields, Soccer Fields, Baseball Fields, Track, etc..
    All Students Will Take Classes On-Line, And Learn Everything On-Line On Their Personal Computers.
    Students Will Be Much Less Personally Sociable.
    Students Will Have Very Poor Verbal Communications Skills Between People.
    Cell Phone Texting Will Be The Norm, And “Out Of Control”, With People Not Talking To Each Other, But Instead Texting Each Other For Everything.

    • RegularJoe62

      Thanks for the prognostications, some of which seem unfortunately correct, but Why Are We Typing Everything In Title Case? Hopefully we’ll still be teaching appropriate capitalization in the future.