Anoka-Hennepin races to add space for all-day K

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 12, 2014 - 1:09 PM

The district is making millions of dollars in additions and improvements this summer as it prepares for the arrival of all-day kindergarten in less than three weeks.

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Sand Creek Elementary principal Paul Anderson gave a tour of the 12,000-square-foot addition and renovations to the school in Coon Rapids.

Photo: ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com,

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Step into Sand Creek El­e­men­ta­ry School in Coon Rapids and you’ll see hall­ways curv­ing into the build­ing to the left and right — part of a cir­cle that staff mem­bers and oth­ers sometimes walk and run for fit­ness pur­poses.

E­lev­en laps e­qual a mile, Prin­ci­pal Paul Anderson said last week.

The class­rooms then branch off the corridors like spokes on a bi­cy­cle. And this fall, for the first time, stu­dents will make their way from that cen­ter hall­way to a new build­ing ad­di­tion that will house seven class­rooms made pos­si­ble by Minnesota’s em­brace of all-day kin­der­gar­ten.

Sand Creek is one of six el­e­men­ta­ry schools in the Anoka-Hennepin district that will fea­ture new ad­di­tions — each of which the dis­trict hoped would be sub­stan­tial­ly com­pleted by Aug. 13. That’s today, Wednesday, of course, and if a vis­it to Sand Creek’s new space last week serves as any in­di­ca­tion, there will be plen­ty of clean­up work left for the cus­to­di­ans, and desks and fur­ni­ture to be moved around, too.

When he walked into the school’s main office eight days ago, Chuck Holden, the district’s chief operations officer, gave Anderson a quick description of what he saw.

“Still a mess,” he said.

“Still a mess,” the principal af­firmed.

But the two of­fi­cials spoke pos­i­tive­ly of the possi­bili­ties dur­ing a tour of the space last week. Granted, with wires hang­ing and car­pet­ing yet to be in­stalled, one’s i­mag­i­na­tion was re­quired. But the rooms were com­ing to­gether under an ag­gres­sive con­struc­tion time line that be­gan in late March.

The Sand Creek ad­di­tion is ex­pect­ed to ac­count for $4.2 mil­lion of the near­ly $40 mil­lion worth of build­ing ad­di­tions now near­ing com­ple­tion in the state’s larg­est school dis­trict. Im­prove­ments to Coon Rapids Middle School also are a part of that larger cost, Hol­den said.

He was asked whether he ex­pect­ed the six el­e­men­ta­ry schools to meet the Aug. 13 dead­line for “sub­stan­tial com­ple­tion.”

“We are hop­ing,” Holden said then. “The nice weath­er is help­ing.”

Other district elementary schools seeing additions and improvements are Adams, Eisenhower, Franklin, Jefferson and Lincoln.

‘Domino effect’

In 2013, the state Legislature agreed to provide funding to districts wanting to move to all-day kindergarten beginning in 2014-15. That legislation covered operating costs, but districts were left to figure how to make room for the kids, and then how to pay for any building projects that might be needed.

Anoka-Hennepin is using money from a maintenance fund and a capital fund and savings from a cutback in portable-classroom rentals. The new additions have made it possible for the district to get rid of half of its temporary trailer classrooms.

The new spaces also allow the district to provide new homes for non-kindergarten students and teachers. At Sand Creek Elementary, two of the seven new classrooms will house special-education students who previously attended Madison Elementary in Blaine. That move, in turn, helps Madison Elementary accommodate its kindergartners, Anderson said. Art and music teachers who previously taught from carts also will have permanent homes.

“It’s a domino effect,” Holden said.

One morning last week, Carolyn Kennedy, a veteran music teacher nearing retirement, grabbed a hard hat and took a look at a new music room in the Sand Creek addition.

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  • Workers were busy at Sand Creek Elementary last week as they hurried to wrap up a 12,000-square-foot addition and renovations to the school. All-day kindergarten will soon come to the Coon Rapids school.

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