Meadow Brook Elementary is out of space. The school is at capacity with 650 students, and enrollment keeps climbing.
So Hopkins School District leaders have come up with a creative way to spread out: They will tunnel to a neighboring building to add more classrooms.
The district is purchasing the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery building next door for $1.75 million. It will convert the building to classrooms and connect it to the school via a tunnel. The project’s total cost will be $4.2 million.
A small addition to the kindergarten wing is also planned to make room for state-funded all-day kindergarten starting next fall. The kindergarten wing addition will cost just under $1 million.
Together, the two projects will increase the Golden Valley school’s footprint by about 20,000 to 132,000 square feet.
“We are thrilled to be growing,” said Meadow Brook Principal Greta Evans-Becker. “We are filled to the brim. We don’t have an extra closet. We need more room.”
The plan is to move all early-childhood classes and several third-grade classrooms to the former crisis nursery site starting in the 2014-15 school year. The tunnel will ensure that students can safely access the gym, cafeteria and rest of the school. Otherwise, students have to slip on coats and boots and traverse a parent drop-off lane.
“I wanted the older children over there. It will be so easy for them rather than have the first-graders. I decided the third-graders will be capable of that,” said Evans-Becker.
She said they explored all options to connect the buildings, including a skyway, before settling on a tunnel. A skyway wasn’t feasible given the two buildings’ differing elevations, the principal said.
“It’s not a long tunnel. It will be like a regular school hallway,” Evans-Becker said.
The crisis nursery is actually the original Meadow Brook School from the 1930s, she said.
So far, parents have been receptive to the plan, especially the 50 additional parking spaces and the additional turn lane for parent pickup and drop-off, Evans-Becker said.
Meadow Brook, which serves early childhood through 6th grade, has been steadily growing primarily from open enrollment. Nearly 50 percent of its students open-enroll for neighboring districts. The school is also seeing a rise in the number of neighborhood children attending.
“People are moving into the neighborhoods. We’ve had more neighborhood families this year than in the past. I think the neighborhoods are starting to turn over,” Evans-Becker said. “There will be a lot more housing in the future. We need to be ready.”
The district will be financing the expansion over 15 years through a finance tool that doesn’t require voter approval. said district Finance Director John Toop.
He said the expansion is a cost-effective way to address growing enrollment at that one school.
“Sure we could build a new building, but it would be way more than the $4.2 million,” Toop said.
He said connecting the buildings via tunnel will give it a campus feel.