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They heard the jokes, endured the ribbing, they said, comments suggesting that SPCPA was all arts, no academics, and questions like: “Do you have a math class?” Newell said.
In 2013, 81 percent of SPCPA’s 11th-graders tested proficient in math, compared with 52 percent statewide.
A couple of blocks away, the St. Paul School District operates Creative Arts High School, focusing on the literary, visual and performing arts. It has about 250 students, but is expected to grow to 600, said Steve Unowsky, the district’s assistant superintendent of middle schools.
With 37,857 students overall, the St. Paul School District has shown an increase of 77 students since the 2010-11 school year, significantly below the 3,000-student increase that Superintendent Valeria Silva then set out to achieve over a three-year period.
Nathan, asked for the downside for the district as charter schools continue to grow, said: “The dollars for the kids. If the district had more kids, the district would have more resources.”
At SPCPA, you’d need an electronic access card to get you far, but during a recent tour, Jacobs led a visitor past the second-floor science labs, the first-floor math classrooms and the black box theater, and into the basement where, back in Room B3, vocal department chairman Nathan Herfindahl, who at times sings the national anthem at Minnesota Wild games, led students through a section of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.”
“This is the last piece of the puzzle …” he said before they took a try at it.
This fall, all of SPCPA’s classrooms are at the Lowry Building, and truth be told, Newell and Judge-Yoakam said, they miss the Landmark Center, despite the climb up four flights of stairs.
But they also see value in their newly renovated home.
“The new space, in a way, has validated us,” Newell said. “We had a chip on our shoulder. There was a reputation of not being a ‘real school.’ Now we have a space that we can call solely ‘our school.’ It’s a beautiful, unified school.”
Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036