It’s out with processed foods and in with the fresh stuff. Next fall, when kids from Northeast and other neighborhoods return to class at Marcy Open School, 415 4th Avenue SE, their school lunches will look and taste a whole lot different.
Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) broke ground March 28 on a nearly $8 million project that will provide the school with a new kitchen and lunchroom, new music rooms and a more secure entrance. Stahl Construction is handling the project, which, outside of a few touch-up chores, is expected to be complete by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.
In order for construction to proceed, however, Marcy’s famed Path to Peace and 30 x 30-ft. Terry Labyrinth had to be dismantled. “Our space here is very limited,” said Laurie McGinley, MPS project manager. “We don’t own the entire block.” The majority of the block is taken up by Holmes Park, owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The playground is shared by the school and the park.
The labyrinth project began in 2008, according to Jacqueline Decker-Travis, who coordinates donations and grants for it. “Over 500 donors have been involved in this project, including the U of M,” she said. Marcy Holmes neighborhood leaders, students, staff, corporate donors all came together to raise $480,000 over the last 11 years for the labyrinth, which is named after a parent who was instrumental in the precepts of cooperation, inclusion, problem solving and peaceful meditation – constructs that Marcy students learn from day one of kindergarten. Last year, the Metropolitan Watershed Management Organization (MWMO) donated and helped install a $29,000 rain garden at the site.
Before groundbreaking, a ceremony was held to “decommission” the garden. The peace pole was carefully wrapped for storage. The 4,000 paver bricks from the Path to Peace were loaded in pallet-sized sections and stacked and stored onsite. The path and the labyrinth will all be put back together when construction is complete; new designs for the peace garden will be considered in the interim.
McGinley said planning for the new construction has been going on since 2016. As of October 2018 Marcy has a student population of 739; it’s bulging at the seams. (Building capacity is 706.) The K-8 school currently serves lunch over five periods beginning at 11 a.m. and running until 1:45 p.m. The new, larger lunchroom will accommodate more students and reduce the number of lunch periods to three. The multipurpose room where students currently eat lunch will be remodeled into new music spaces.
The new kitchen will allow the school to serve fresh foods prepared on-site, instead of hauling them from the district’s Nutrition Center and reheating them.
The school will also get a makeover of its HVAC system, a new roof and a relocated office. The majority of the construction will take place in the summer. The wading pool, which is part of the park, will remain open.
In an email, Dirk Tedmon, spokesperson for the school district, wrote, “Due to national events, school security needs have …changed since the Labyrinth was first planned.” He continued, “Safety for our students during the school day is our most important consideration in any school design or construction project, along with how any element within a school or on school grounds supports student learning. The Labyrinth is an open, public location between two school-controlled grounds (building and playground).”
Costs and funding
The project is fully funded by a bond sale from November 2017.
Secure entrance total = $4,952,696
Cafeteria total = $3,600,000
Tedmon provided a breakdown of costs, where they’re allocated and how much money comes from Long Term Facilities Maintenance (LTFM) and Certificate of Participation (COP) funding; see table on page 7.
The district has also set aside $100,000 for the reconstruction of the labyrinth in a different location on the school grounds.
Mixed reactions to the plan
Dekker-Travis has been outspoken in her opposition to the changes. “The labyrinth was designed for that area. It’s protected on three sides. The path is not meant for heavy foot traffic. The Labyrinth is part of who Marcy is and why we are a successful school. It’s a recognized International Peace Site.” She added that people have held religious services there, and some have even scattered loved ones’ ashes.
Ted Tucker, a member of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association said neighbors seem to be more concerned with traffic along Fifth Street SE, which is narrow and has several bump-outs to control traffic. “Of course, everybody is wondering where to park,” he said. “That’s always a concern in this neighborhood.”
On the other hand, Assistant Principal Trinity Raw is excited about the project. “My kids have attended High Five at Webster, where the food is prepared fresh every day. When my son came here, he said the food was awful.”
She’s excited about another possibility, too. “Now we’re going to be able to teach our kids about composting!”
Below: A breakdown of how much money comes from Long Term Facilities Maintenance (LTFM) and Certificate of Participation (COP) funding. The Marcy School site plan. (Source: Minneapolis Public School)