Question and answer
- Why does school finance seem so complicated?
- If approved, how long will the construction take on the existing schools?
- When will class size be addressed? What are class size guidelines now?
- Would boundaries change?
- Was any part of the decision to add classroom space and improve schools based on open enrollment? Would closing open enrollment help with overcrowding?
- Isn't there an elementary school already being built in Blaine?
- Didn't the district just close a bunch of schools in 2010?
- What are fitness rooms?
- Question and answer from May 2017 community meetings
Question: Why does school finance seem so complicated?
Answer: School finance is complicated. There are many factors contributing to district budgets in Minnesota, from how the funds are gathered to how that revenue is spent. Take a look at this video for more information.
School Finance in Minnesota from MASBO on Vimeo.
Question: If approved, how long will the construction take on the existing schools?
Answer: Bond improvements include projects at all five high schools, two middle schools, and three elementary schools, and will not able to happen all at once due to a variety of factors.
Construction will happen in two phases. The new elementary schools and selected projects on existing schools would begin in the spring of 2018 with the goal of being operational in the fall of 2019. A second phase would begin in 2020. A list of projects and a timeline for construction will be approved by the School Board following approval if it were to occur.
Question: When will class size be addressed? What are class size guidelines now?
Answer: Ballot question one asks the community for $226.20 per pupil (per student) in additional funding, which would raise approximately $9.5 million annually. About half of that will go to fund the operational costs of the new space and buildings proposed to be built in question two. The other half would go toward addressing class sizes.
What does that mean? Roughly $4.75 million would go toward hiring additional teachers at all grade levels, which would add sections and reduce class sizes. However, the specific numbers won't be known until after the election and the School Board knows how much space is available for the added classroom needs.
The current target class size for middle school is 29 and for high school is 35.5. In the high schools, Anoka-Hennepin makes every effort to never have a section over 40. That said, Anoka-Hennepin doesn't have strict minimums or maximums for secondary classes.
At the elementary level the guidelines are as follows:
- Grade K 19-22
- Grade 1 20-23
- Grade 2 24-27
- Grade 3 26-29
- Grade 4 27-30
- Grade 5 27-32
From site-to-site, and at all grade-levels, some classes may have more or less than the guidelines, and that depends on a host of factors.
Question: Would boundaries change?
Answer: As the population grows in areas of the district, boundaries are annually reviewed to balance building enrollment with space available. The goal for stability in school boundaries is five years for elementary schools and ten years for secondary schools.
No matter what the outcome of the referendum, however, boundary adjustments at the elementary and middle school levels will be required.
Similar to the Fit for the Future task force that looked at facility needs, the community and district families would be brought in to review and provide feedback in regard to attendance area and boundary change proposals before they are implemented. The scope of boundary changes will be determined during this process. It will begin after the election when the amount of usable space at each school building is known.
Question: Was any part of the decision to add classroom space and improve schools based on open enrollment? Would closing open enrollment help with overcrowding?
Answer: The Fit for the Future plans are designed to serve the needs of Anoka-Hennepin students. Space requests being presented are based on enrollment projections for students who live in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.
Open enrollment involves students living outside of the Anoka-Hennepin School District formally requesting to attend an Anoka-Hennepin school by submitting an application during the state's open enrollment window. State law requires public school districts, including Anoka-Hennepin, offer enrollment into their district when a family applies to have their student open enroll into it. This includes Anoka-Hennepin. However, school districts can close open enrollment to individual schools that are at capacity, instead offering open enrollment opportunities into a school that has more space. Open enrollment is currently closed at several Anoka-Hennepin schools, which include: Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy, Eisenhower Elementary, Johnsville Elementary, Ramsey Elementary, Jackson Middle School, Andover High School, and Blaine High School.
As a whole, the Anoka-Hennepin School District loses more students districtwide to open enrollment, private school enrollment, and homeschooling, than open enroll into the school district.
Lastly, open enrollment is sometimes confused with in-district transfers, which involves students residing in the Anoka-Hennepin School District applying to go to a district school that's not their assigned neighborhood school. The same rules apply to in-district transfers as open enrollment.
Question: Isn't there an elementary school already being built in Blaine?
Answer: No. The elementary school being built in the city of Blaine, next to the National Sports Center, is part of the Spring Lake Park School District, not Anoka-Hennepin.
Question: Didn't the district just close a bunch of schools in 2010?
Answer: Not at all. At the end of the 2009-10 school year, six schools were repurposed, and are now home to programs that used to be housed in malls, storefronts and other leased space that cost the district millions annually in rental fees. Thanks to repurposing the schools for new uses, the district has saved more than $3 million a year over the past seven years.
Specifically, Washington Elementary School is now the sixth-grade campus of Anoka Middle School for the Arts; Sorteberg and Riverview are home to early childhood screening, early childhood special education, early childhood family education programs and preschool; L.O. Jacob is a special education site; Sandburg is used for district professional development, special education staff, School Board business, Community Education programming, and high school athletic programs (specifically Anoka High School gymnastics and Andover High School dance); and the Parkview Kindergarten Center became Champlin-Brooklyn Park Academy. All of these schools are full of students and programming each and every day.
The only school that was closed was Champlin Elementary School, and that was closed for a variety of reasons, including the significant price tag of renovating it to meet the needs of today's students. That building has been sold. In addition, the former Educational Service Center (ESC) off Hanson Boulevard was also closed and sold after district staff were moved to the Peter Enich Kindergarten Center, which the district already owned in Anoka.
These decisions followed nearly a year of study and review by two separate committees as well as district staff. The main task force determined that Anoka-Hennepin had 18 percent more space than needed at the elementary level and eight percent more space than necessary at the middle school level, primarily due to decreasing enrollment in specific parts of the district. Although the decisions were difficult, moving programs out of leased space and into the repurposed school buildings has kept the district in good financial health and able to maintain quality educational programs.
Today, as the Fit for the Future task force found, significant growth is happening in portions of the district that are located several miles from where schools were repurposed eight years ago. Simply moving students from Andover or Blaine into repurposed schools in Coon Rapids, for example, isn't an option, the community task force said.
In addition, the 64 portable classrooms that the community task force found to be a safety and security risk outdate the repurposing of schools. Some of the portable classrooms, which were intended to be temporary, are nearly 30 years old.
Another factor: the statewide all-day-every-day kindergarten program was also added since the schools were repurposed, which has put a strain on space in many district schools, adding to the space needs today.
Question: What are fitness rooms?
Answer: A fitness room is a little different than a weight room. Fitness rooms are in the same location where strength equipment resides, but they're used for more purposes. Fitness rooms are used not only for after-school activities, but also physical education classes during the day.