Wayzata voters OK $109 million in school improvements

  • Article by: KIM MCGUIRE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2014 - 7:52 PM

A high school addition and a new elementary school should be open in the fall of 2016, district officials said.

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Wayzata High School students crowded the lunchroom for their lunch break, Monday, February 10, 2014 in Plymouth, MN.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Wayzata school officials said Wednesday that they hope to have a purchase agreement in place for the site of the district’s new elementary within the next 90 days.

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved $109 million in bond funding to build a high school addition and a new elementary school and to make related infrastructure improvements.

The new elementary will be located somewhere north of Hwy. 55 and west of the future expansion of Peony Lane to Lawndale Lane.

Jim Westrum, Wayzata’s director of finance and business services, said the district has already had preliminary discussions with “several” landowners regarding a potential site.

“If all goes to plan, we’d like to begin pushing land and dirt in about a year, March of 2015,” he said.

Unofficial results show 3,818 votes were cast in favor of the plan and 1,107 against. Voters also approved renewing the district’s technology levy by a similar margin.

Most Wayzata school buildings are already at or near capacity, and enrollment projections indicate the district are likely to gain another 700 to 900 high school students over the next decade. More than 1,200 homes have been built in the district over the past four years, and 1,600 more are slated by 2017.

Construction of 172,000 square feet of new high school space is set to begin in the fall of 2014. Once finished, the renovated high school will be able to house 3,900 students. At its current capacity, it is already the largest high school in Minnesota.

School officials discussed building a second high school campus, but ultimately cooled on the idea because of its projected cost, which was expected to exceed $12 million over the next 20 years in operating costs alone.

Initially, the bond proposal did not include a new elementary but a change in enrollment projections prompted district officials to add that to the proposal in early 2013.

The need for more elementary space was further amplified by legislators’ decision to fund all-day kindergarten. School leaders estimate they will need 14 to 16 new classrooms to accommodate the influx in kindergarten students.

District officials expect both the new elementary school and the high school expansion to be open to students in the fall of 2016.

“We are incredibly grateful to voters for these results,” said Superintendent Chace Anderson. “Approval of these two funding requests represents a tremendous vote of confidence and gift of support from our community to our students, staff and families. We will continue to provide Wayzata School District families with the quality education they expect, and in turn do our part to maintain the excellent community we are all proud to call our home.”

The owner of a $333,900 home can expect to see a tax increase of about $10 a month as a result of the referendum. There will be no tax increase for the renewed technology levy.

Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469

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