The very mention of closing schools in districts such as Robbinsdale or Osseo can bring parents and teachers out in droves to protest.
Not in Spring Lake Park.
The north suburban district will cede its Kenneth Hall Elementary School to the high school next year, then tear down Hall the year after. The loss of the grades K-3 school has led to hardly a whimper.
"It's all been pretty benign," said Spring Lake Park superintendent Don Helmstetter about the coming changes for Kenneth Hall and the district's two other K-3 schools, Park Terrace and Woodcrest elementaries.
What's in store is the result of several factors. First, thanks to $95.4 million in bond money approved by voters in 2006, the district is building a new elementary school and renovating the other two, as well as its intermediate, middle and high schools. The new school, at the north end of the district, in Blaine, will be called Northpoint Elementary.
With all these changes coming next school year, district officials figured they needed to redraw the district's K-3 attendance boundaries. That means that about 200 to 250 elementary students will be headed for different schools -- including the new one -- next year.
Helmstetter said it was made clear to district parents that changes were in the works once the bond request passed, allowing the new elementary to be built and the high school to use the adjacent Kenneth Hall while the high school is being renovated.
When the district took on the task of redrawing the K-3 attendance boundaries, it considered 22 options. The school board finally settled on the one that kept as many neighborhoods attending the same schools as possible, Helmstetter said. The board also made sure none of the elementary schools would have skewed enrollment numbers, either in terms of total students or the kinds of students, such as poor students or members of racial minorities.
The district also wanted "to make sure there were reasonable bus rides," Helmstetter said. "I think we can say with this that all the bus routes have been reduced in time."
Kenneth Hall Principal Mike Callahan said there has been "zip, zero" angst about the school closing because students will be moving on to either a new school or a school that has been remodeled.
"People have been well aware that we're moving on to some really great things," he said. "Every child in the district is going to experience a new-school feel."
Helmstetter and school board vice chairwoman Marilynn Forsberg think any criticism of the changes has been muted by all the advance warning parents got, the realization that Kenneth Hall was perhaps in need of a bit too much of a facelift, and by the knowledge that the K-3 moves had nothing to do with budget shortfalls.
"People knew this was coming," Helmstetter said.
The renovation of the other two elementary schools is slated to be done by the fall, he said.
"This has been in the planning stage for a long time," Forsberg said. "Basically, the [Minnesota] Department of Education told us that [Kenneth Hall] was in need of too much repair ... and I think the community accepted that. It's not any surprise to the community at all."
Norman Draper • 612-673-4547