More ‘Fit for the Future’ community meetings planned

Anoka-Hennepin is growing, and buildings across the district are at or beyond capacity.Community meetings on referendum questions will be held at Anoka-Hennepin high schools Sept. 14-26. File photo Thousands of students at nine district schools attend classes in portable classrooms in yards and parking lots because the permanent building they go to doesn’t have adequate space. There are 62 portable classrooms in all, posing a safety and security risk to students and staff.

Meanwhile, in the sod fields of Blaine and the farm fields of Ramsey, new housing developments are popping up like corn stalks – and families with children are rapidly filling them.

That is why on Tuesday, Nov. 7, residents of the Anoka-Hennepin School District will have the opportunity to make district schools “Fit for the Future” by addressing facility needs for students today and in the future.

“After advice from a community task force that researched this for 10 months, it’s clear we wouldn’t be able to find a reasonable way to accommodate the growth in our district or address the safety and security issues portable classrooms have without asking the community for funds for projects of this magnitude,” said Anoka-Hennepin School Board Chairperson Tom Heidemann. “We’re bringing forward our best recommendation built on community input.”

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board voted unanimously July 10 to put two levy questions on the November ballot. The decision comes following nearly 18 months of facilities planning, including work and recommendations made by the 32-member community Fit for the Future task force, as well as feedback from taxpayers, parents and guardians, and civic leaders during a series of community meetings held to discuss the topic in May.

The funding generated from the referendum will create safe and secure learning environments through the removal of portable classrooms; construct additional schools and classroom space where student populations are significantly growing; offer solutions for maintaining quality schools by improving science labs, media centers and flexible learning areas throughout the district; and address class sizes at all levels – elementary, middle and high school.

The total cost for districtwide facility construction and renovations will be $249 million, which is what will be asked for in question two on the November ballot. If question two is approved by voters, it will be dependent on the approval of question one, which will ask voters for $226.20 per pupil, or approximately $9.5 million annually over 10 years. Those dollars will fund operational needs of the new spaces, and provide relief to class sizes across the district.

Thanks to a culmination of circumstances, including other debt obligations expiring and low interest rates on construction bonds, the tax impact will be about $11 a month for the owner of an average Anoka-Hennepin home, valued at $200,000. A calculator is available on the Fit for the Future website, www.ahschools.us/FitForTheFuture, for community members to learn their property’s specific figure.

“As our community task force shared earlier this year, we’re running out of space and there are more students on the way,” said Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent David Law. “The portables don’t provide a long-term solution, they have some safety challenges, and timing is good to address the largest areas needed to maintain our quality schools.”

Community meetings to provide details

The School Board will be hosting community meetings in September to share additional information and answer any questions. 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 15-minute presentation starting at 6:35 p.m. The dates are:

-Thursday, Sept. 14, Coon Rapids High School.

-Tuesday, Sept. 19, Blaine High School.

-Wednesday, Sept, 20: Andover High School.

-Thursday, Sept. 21, Champlin Park High School.

-Tuesday, Sept. 26, Anoka High School.

Voting information, including registration and early voting

Community members must re-register to vote if their address or name changes, or if they have not voted at least once during a four-year period. Applications can be found by clicking “Register to vote” on the Fit for the Future website, www.ahschools.us/FitForTheFuture, or at the computer kiosk at several district schools. Those unsure of their registration can click “Check voter registration” on the Fit for the Future website.

In Minnesota, you don’t have to wait until election day to cast your ballot – you can vote early through absentee voting, for any reason, starting Friday, Sept. 22. Early voting applications for both Anoka and Hennepin county residents, are available online by clicking “Vote early” on the Fit for the Future website, or at any district school. Residents also have the option of voting early in person at the Anoka County Elections office – again, both Anoka and Hennepin County residents – from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, starting Friday, Sept. 22, and ending Monday, Nov. 6. The Anoka County Elections office is located at 325 E Main St. in downtown Anoka.

Otherwise, voters can cast their ballots on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, at their normal polling location. Click “Find polling location” on the Fit for the Future website, www.ahschools.us/FitForTheFuture, for more information.

For additional voting information and the latest on the referendum, visit www.ahschools.us/FitForTheFuture. With specific questions, call the Fit for the Future hotline at 763-506-3383 or email [email protected]