A 32-member task force charged with looking into Anoka-Hennepin’s long-term building and classroom needs, on Jan. 23, presented nine recommendations to the School Board for addressing the district’s facility needs.
Chief among the recommendations made by the task force, which were made of community members, parents and school district staff, is the construction of new schools in Blaine and Ramsey, the upgrading and renovation of schools to meet the needs of 21st century students, the creation of additional space throughout the district for special education programming, and the elimination of all 62 portable classroom spaces around the district by adding permanent classroom space. The group also recommended the district go to the community for a bond referendum to enact the recommendations.
The recommendations were made in order to address the findings the task force made during its eight-month study of the district. Among the findings made: the district is experiencing a dramatic imbalance of population growth, which is putting significant pressure on schools in Blaine, Ramsey and Ham Lake; the lack of 21st century learning spaces in nearly all district buildings, which average 49 years old districtwide; a surging need for special education spaces; the continued use of more than 60 portable classroom spaces, mostly at secondary schools, continue to pose a security risk; and a lack of classroom and support space at most schools across the district.
The School Board accepted the report and will use it as a guide to make decisions on how to address space challenges moving forward, School Board chair Tom Heidemann said following the task force presentation.
“We have a lot to consider and we very much appreciate you laying this very solid foundation for us to work from,” he said. “This is not something that’s going to go on the shelf.”
Heidemann said the next steps will include a community engagement process and to put together a plan of action with specifics behind it.
“Historically, we’ve always tried to plan on the 10 to 15 year cycle. We believe it’s much more efficient to thoroughly plan than to react,” he said. “So the time is right to be thoughtful going forward.”
The Fit for the Future Task Force was originally formed in April 2016 at the School Board’s request, and charged with developing long-term recommendations for consideration “that will allow the district to continue high quality educational programs to prepare students for success after they graduate from Anoka-Hennepin Schools.” To do that, the task force studied community growth and district enrollment projections, school capacity and condition, future program need, finance, special education and a number of other topics.
To reach its findings and recommendations, the task force listened to presentations on facility needs at all levels, enrollment growth, community growth, demographic changes, transportation, community education program needs, media center needs, and finance. In addition, the group toured the district’s five regular high schools, and saw a recently-completed, districtwide facility utilization study.
Anoka-Hennepin has a long history of engaging with the community and asking for guidance on the direction the district goes, Chuck Holden, the district’s chief operations officer said at the Jan. 23 presentation. Throughout its 65-year history, countless community groups and task forces have been formed, just like Fit for the Future, he said. And in this case, community members devoted more than 752 combined volunteer hours toward the task force’s work.
Meeting agendas, minutes and reports on the task force are available on the district website at ahschools.us/fff
, where the full report can also be found