Ground Broken On New School While Others Fill Further
It will be a tight squeeze in Southwest Minneapolis' schools this year.
Tuesday afternoon, Minneapolis Public Schools officially broke ground on an expansion for the Lake Harriet Community School's Lower Campus, which is supposed to alleviate serious crowding problems at the Linden Hills school. But many other Southwest Minneapolis schools will be starting this coming Monday stuffed to the gills with students.
As principals, school district leaders, parents, and students joyfully tossed a ceremonial pile of dirt into the air with the ritual golden shovels at Lake Harriet Lower Campus, no doubt many in the crowd were feeling relieved. The school was so full last year, its music teacher was effectively kicked out of his room to make space for more students, and bounced from classroom to classroom teaching his subject off of a cart. This year, partially due to the construction, the school's art teacher will suffer the same fate.
Even then, this solution is only possible because several classrooms are actually located in aged prefab buildings tucked in the school's parking lot.
Similar problems bedevil Lake Harriet's Upper Campus, as they try to find room for one class of fourth graders and another class of fifth graders. To make space, the school has resorted to a complicated dance among teachers to make sure classrooms don't sit empty while a teacher prepares their lessons. Traditionally, teachers have used their classrooms as their offices in between teaching classes.
"We're trying to find creative ways to fit students into the building and still provide quality instruction," Principal Mary Ryncheck told Patch in an interview.
"Instead of adding on more classrooms, we're trying to more effectively use the classrooms we have," she added. "If you were in retail, you wouldn't let something sit empty."
The Lower Campus addition will double Lake Harriet Community School's square footage, and even have a little margin for growth on top of that. However, many other Southwest Minneapolis schools are also staring crowding problems in the face this fall.
At Anthony Middle School, for example, "every single" classroom is use this year, even after renovations that cut big rooms into smaller ones, freeing up space, according to principal Jackie Hanson.
Burroughs Community School Principal Tim Cadotte said that a few of his classrooms might even exceed their district-mandated maximum number of students per teacher, because the school has nowhere to put them.
Washburn High School has had to claw back numerous rooms from their previous roles as storage areas, locker rooms, and others, according to Principal Carol Markham-Cousins.
According to census data and demographic projections the district made last year, parts of Southwest Minneapolis could see even more growth as a bubble of babies and toddlers reaches school age.
At Lake Harriet Lower Campus, the construction is causing further crowding for this school year—on top of the loss of an art classroom, teachers now have no more office space, and must prepare their lessons in a construction trailer parked next to the school.
"It will probably get on people's nerves," said Lower Campus Principal Janet Parrish, "but it's only for one year. (Teachers and parents) are ok with it because they know it's a necessary addition."