Anoka-Hennepin solicits community feedback ahead of November referendum

Following the recommendations from the Fit for the Future Task Force, the Anoka-Hennepin School Board is moving forward to ask voters for funding to address facility issues this election season. The funding generated from bond and operating levies will create appropriately-sized facilities, remove portable classrooms to increase safety and provide flexibility for today’s classroom needs. That would mean: building two new elementary schools — one in Blaine and another in Ramsey; putting additions on the district’s five traditional high schools (Andover, Anoka, Blaine, Champlin Park and Coon Rapids high schools); and providing general upgrades on existing elementary and middle schools — focusing on science classrooms and library media centers.

Anoka-Hennepin has a long history of involving the community in large-scale facility changes. In that spirit, the School Board will be hosting community meetings this month to answer questions and gather input about initial construction plans. The meetings, which are organized in a conversational open house format, will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at each high school, and include a short 15-minute presentation starting at 6:35 p.m.

-Wednesday, May 17, Champlin Park High School cafeteria.

-Thursday, May 18, Coon Rapids High School cafeteria.

-Wednesday, May 24, Andover High School cafeteria.

-Thursday, May 25, Anoka High School cafeteria.

-Tuesday, May 30, Blaine High School cafeteria.

In 2016, the Fit For the Future facility task force, which was made up of 32 community members, found through their year-long research that student enrollment is sharply increasing in some district communities, such as Blaine, Ramsey and Dayton. The task force also determined the 62 portable classroom sets scattered throughout the district have a variety of safety concerns. The group found that the average age of district schools is 49-years-old as well, and that science classrooms and library media centers are the areas most lagging.

During the task force’s presentation to the School Board in January, they shared that district schools are making the most out of their existing spaces, but are in need of updates to better support educating students.

“As parents and leaders in the community, we aren’t feeling the full impact of the dire need in many of our buildings because of the excellence of our district’s teachers and staff. Their creativity, their flexibility, their commitment to the students has overcome a whole bunch of obstacles — and I’m grateful for their work in new and profound ways after my time serving on the task force,” said Cullen Tanner, task force participant, parent, and community member.

The task force told the School Board that now is the time to ask for educational funding needs. The district would be able to take advantage of favorable interest rates and low debt levels, the report said.

Community feedback, like the meeting opportunities coming up in May, is vital in making Anoka-Hennepin facilities “Fit for the Future.” For the latest information, visit www.ahschools.us/FitForTheFuture.