Wilshire Park Elementary School in St. Anthony will expand by several classrooms and other spaces, if a referendum vote to be held Thursday, September 7, passes. The timing would put the expanded facility into use by the opening of the 2018-19 school year.
According to the school district’s website, “administrators will share information about the referendum and allow time for questions and a tour at a meeting Tuesday, August 8 from 5:30-6:30 p.m., in the Wilshire Park Elementary School Multipurpose Room, 3600 Highcrest Road.”
“St. Anthony-New Brighton School District is also hosting one-on-one meetings for residents to learn more about increasing resident enrollment and its impact on space at Wilshire Park.”
“If interested in scheduling a meeting, contact Wendy Webster at 612-706-1170 or email email@example.com.”
Last we reported on this topic, in April, it was called “Plan B,” and officials were “up to about Plan L or Plan M” recently as the result of community meetings in April and May and subsequent tweaking by the architects, the district’s Community Services Director Wendy Webster told the Northeaster.
Wilshire Park Principal Kari Page is “about two kids away from having tents in the parking lot,” said Webster, having been “really creative” repurposing computer labs and shrinking media center space to make classrooms and holding breakouts (small work groups within classes) in the hallways.
The plan adds a west addition, which would be built starting this fall, and an east addition, built next summer; the total of the two is 26,760 square feet and would cost $14.06 million through bonding authority.
The west addition would house a (second) gymnasium and elementary classrooms. The east addition would accommodate administrative offices and provide a secure entrance to the building as well as additional elementary classrooms (8 total, to the existing approximately 28 classrooms). Site improvements on the east side include the separation of bus/car traffic and a helical foundation for the east addition. Some rooms near the joints with the additions would be renovated. A multi-purpose room gets reconfigured to expand the cafeteria, and the media center would be reclaimed.
As the sample ballot reads, a yes vote will increase property taxes. An example given in the spring presentations shows a home of $225,000 value would see an annual increase of approximately $146. A simple majority of those voting is needed to pass the measure.
Why not hold this “election” with the November general election? Isn’t this special election costly? Webster explained the approximately $8,000 to $10,000 cost of conducting an extra election is offset by many factors. A November vote would mean not starting until spring or summer, perpetuating the crowded conditions for an additional school year, 2018-19 as well as 2017-18. Building in late fall allows construction crews to enclose the structure and work on the interior through the winter.
There is also the need to remove about 30 feet of unstable soil from one part of the site, which they believe is safer to do when school is not in session (for the east addition, next summer).
Superintendent Bob Laney was quoted in April saying the public had communicated that an earlier idea, “Plan A” for a few classrooms for a few million dollars, was too short sighted. ‘We don’t think you’re thinking big enough.’ They said other spaces needed to be enlarged to accommodate that many students,” Laney said.
But throughout, Webster said, “we have been mindful to not overbuild. We’re planning to meet the needs.”
Consultant Hazel Reinhardt ran four models in 2015 projecting enrollment based on both birth rate and mobility, out to the 2025-26 school year. The school, with about 705 students now, would have at its lowest, 793 resident students by 2025-26, and at maximum, 963 resident students. (The district is closed to further open enrollment.)
Webster said she has already seen increases in numbers of babies born. “For the past ten years we had about 65 births per year. Last year, April 1 to March 30 Community Services was tracking so we could offer a baby brunch…and 90 babies were born in that period.”