With a cost that nearly tripled from conception to opening day, the Lowry Avenue Bridge may be a little rich for some folks' blood at $104 million, but it's drawing praise from one industry publication.
Roads and Bridges magazine named the crossing that opened last year as one of the top 10 new bridges nationally. The Illinois-based publication, which uses engineering difficulty as its prime criterion, labeled the span over the Mississippi River eye-catching.
The magazine noted the bridge's long-lasting, color-shifting LED lights and an underground sand filter to treat water running off the bridge as notable features, along with fitting it into a tight footprint.
The bridge has built for Hennepin County and reopened a crossing that was closed due to a shifting pier in 2008, and demolished a year later.
A Minneapolis school board member apologized Wednesday for how she worded comments regarding Southwest students while she argued at a board meeting last week against expanding the school.
"Building how many more classrooms for high school, when 50 percent, when the most important kids we want to invest in aren't there," Carla Bates said in part, prompting some pushback from Southwest parents.
"I went back to my statement and went, 'wow.!" Bates said after issuing a statement clarifying her intent. She said she apologized because she didn't want the reaction to how she made her point to undermine the legitimacy of her arguments against the expansion proposal.
"I don't want to become a lightning rod for, "see, the district really doesn't like Southwest'" Bates said in an interview.
"I first of all want to assure everyone that I am a strong advocate for all our children in all parts of the city," she said.
Southwest, which has the smallest share of low-income students among the district's seven big high schools, leads those schools in graduation rate, ACT scores, and going on to college. The school enrolled a count of 1,662 students, and district administrators proposed a 450-student addition to the school at an very preliminary estimated cost of $47 million. Some parents also have questioned that approach to handling an expected enrollment bulge in southwest Minneapolis
Bates argued that investment in added school space doesn't make sense when so much learning is shifting online. She also argued that Washburn is a more appropriate site for an addition because of its more central location and the size of the campus it shares with Ramsey Middle School. And she suggested that improvements at Roosevelt High School, which have yet to show up in the district's statistical measures of performance, will draw more students there. "I think Roosevelt is poised to become one of the best schools in the city," she said. That might require redrawing the Washburn-Southwest boundary, she added in an interview, but they could be phased in.
Bates cited several factors in an interview that make her optimistic about Roosevelt;good leadership, engaged staff, a strong IB with diverse composition.
"I think that putting $40 million at Southwest is looking backward instead of looking forward," Bates said at the board meeting. "I'm very concerned, very very very concerned, about the Southwest proposal because of the money, because of the location of the school, because of how secondary [school] is changing." .
(Update: The middle-grades Spanish immersion program should remain at Anweatin Middle School, the district told parents of immerison students Tuesday night.
That reverses a revised recommendation that district planners made to their board just last week to shift the program to the Wilder building on the South Side from the current North Side site. Some parents wanted a site that more accessible by bus from the South Side, where the bulk of immersion students reside. But others at Anwatin pushed back (see below).
The immerison program will bring a district-estimated 225 to 250 students to the school if a proposed expansion of the program to Sheridan school in northeast Minneapolis is approved. That expansion would help offset a loss of some students feeding to Anwatin from Bethune, who would go to Franklin Middle School. The district said that students from adjacent Bryn Mawr elementary would continue to feed Anwatin, along with Internaitonal Baccalaureate students from Whittier school.)
There's been pushback from the city's northern third recently on a proposed enrollment plan recently in two areas of concern -- the proposed shift of the district middle-school Spanish immersion program out of Anwatin Middle School, and the future of North High School.
Both were topics Monday night when the district opened a series of geographic meetings with parents, this time the North Side.
District representatives hinted that a change in the immersion proposal could be unveiled Tuesday night at another parent meeting at Windom. The district has immersion elementaries at Emerson and Windom schools, and wants to open a third that would share Sheridan. The district last month proposed keeping the middle school program at Anwatin and making Roosevelt the pathway high school for Spanish immersion, But it revised that this month to propose sending immersion students to the South Side's Wilder building for middle school, responding to a concern about making the program more geographically compact.
That prompted an outcry from some Anwatin parents who felt the revised program undercut their school both by shifting 150 immersion students, and by routing some elementary students that now feed Anwatin to a reopened Franklin Middle School. Parent Kimberlee Martinez brought a poster-size map to make her point that the district zone serving the north and northeast Minneapolis is short-changed on Spanish immersion. It does have the city's only French immersion district school.
The school board also got an earful last week from North High School boosters, who wanted to know when the second small academy to operate in that school is going to debut. Several advocated for a revival of the science and math-focused Summa Tech that North used to offer in the days before the advent of STEM (science tech engineering math) programs. Area Associate Superintendent Michael Thomas reassured them that a medical, science and tech program was proposed to open at North in 2015 for up to 500 students, in cooperation with the Institute for Student Achievement, the consultant helping the district with its arts and communication academy now in its second year at North.
North advocates now have a key advocate in board member Kim Ellison, who earlier served on the community committee that several years ago recommended alternatives to a proposal then to close North.
The district was also peppered with questions about what it's doing to strengthen Olson Middle School, as a feeder for Henry High School. One plan is to reopen a prek-5 community school at Cityview that's compatible with Henry and Edison High School International Baccalaureate programs. Cityview would also house a relocated French immersion program.
(Photo: Anwatin Middle School and Bryn Mawr elementary are tucked in an area between Interstate 394 and Bassett Creek)
The selection of Mohamud Noor to fill the seat vacated by the death of Hussein Samatar came on a 5-3 first-ballot margin Tuesday night at the school board.
The meeting was recessed for 12 minutes after the vote when some activists supporting Ubah Jama, including Al Flowers Jr., demanded to know the count.
The district later released the tally, which showed something of a gender gap among the board.members. All three of those supporting Jama, Samatar's widow, are women. They were Tracine Asberry, Carla Bates and Rebecca Gagnon.
All three of the board's guys voted for Noor, joined by two female board members, Those supporting him were Richard Mammen, Alberto Monserrate, Josh Reimnitz, Jenny Arneson and Kim Ellison.
Noor was endorsed by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers when he ran in a special election for a Senate seat in 2011. Jama's late husband voted against the last teacher contract. But the distribution of votes suggests that the views of board members on whether there's a need for greater or lesser change in the district's teacher contract wasn't determinative of the outcome.
The district lies between Interstate 35W and the Mississippi River, generally north of E. 36th Street.
(Photo above: Mohamud Noor)
Tuesday's elections had the possibility of putting as many as three Somali candidates into elected office, carrying on the legacy of the late Hussein Samatar, but only one crossed the electoral threshold.
That was Abdi Warsame, the victor for City Council in the Sixth Ward, where he swamped incumbent Robert Lilligren, becoming the council's first Somali member.
But in Eden Prairie, Mushid Barud, finished a distant fifth in a school board race, while in Mankato, Abdi Sabrie was a distant fourth, for that district's board.
But the state may gain a second Somali in public office when it fills the seat of Samatar, who made history in 2010 as the state's first elected Somali. He died in August. Two Somalis, Ubah Ali Juma, who is Samatar';s widow, and Mohamud Noor, are among the four applicants competing to be appointed by the Minneapolis baord to the District seat on Tuesday. The other two applicants, Ira Jourdain and Nicque M. Mabrey, are of Indian heritage.
The appointee will be sworn in during the board's Dec.10 meeting, and serve through the end of 2014.
(Photo: Abdi Warsame)
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