District 287 might buy another site

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2010 - 4:32 PM

The growing 13-member district, which serves special needs students, recently bought a school in Brooklyn Center.

School District 287 -- a consortium of 13 metro districts -- has begun negotiations with Robbinsdale schools to buy the former Hosterman Middle School in New Hope.

District 287, which serves students with special needs, currently leases the Hosterman site from Robbinsdale schools. If it were to buy the school, it would likely tear it down to make way for a new school. Another possibility is that the district would buy a plot adjoining the building itself and not have to tear down the old school.

District 287, which mostly leases buildings to serve its population of at-risk students unable to learn in a regular classroom environment, has lately been focusing on building or buying new facilities. Last month, it bought the former Edgewood Elementary School, in Brooklyn Center, from the Osseo district. In 2008, the district opened its $25.4 million South Education Center, in Richfield.

District 287 serves about 10,000 students in more than 100 districts throughout the state. It uses its own leased or owned buildings to house full-day programs for 600 special education students and 500 to 600 alternative learning students, who can't function in a regular school environment. It helps other students around the state through outreach services.

A new District 287 building would not only balance out the South Education Center with a north suburban facility, but would provide space for a burgeoning District 287 student population.

"We are experiencing some increases in enrollment this year," said Superintendent Sandy Lewandowski. "We have probably had a 5 to 10 percent increase in our learning center-based programs that was not projected."

Lewandowski said district officials don't know the reason for the increase. The current leasing arrangement wouldn't work because the Hosterman building is so old and isn't built for children who have various mental and physical disabilities.

"The primary driving factor is that it is a very old building that is probably at the end of its natural life," Lewandowski said. Plus, she said, the new building would have the advantage of being able to accommodate District 287's special needs students, especially autistic students, many of whom need lots of classroom space.

Another need is day-care space for students who have children. Lewandowski said that a new building could absorb a waiting list of pregnant and parent students at the district's North Vista Education Center program, in Robbinsdale. District 287 officials have determined that renovating the building would not be worth the cost.

A new school would probably cost District 287 $25 million to $27 million, which includes the tab for buying one of the two plots comprising the Hosterman school grounds, Lewandowski said. She said this is a good time to embark on building projects, because construction costs are lower due to the nation's economic downturn.

District 287 currently owns or leases 12 buildings.

Most of District 287s services are directed toward its 13 member districts, which comprise a crescent of west suburban districts stretching from Bloomington in the south to Brooklyn Center in the north. District 287 officials are able to levy for tax dollars to lease or buy buildings through the taxing authority of the member districts.

The district also offers other learning programs and services, such as foreign languages, programs for gifted and talented students, teacher training, and consulting for member districts.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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