All-day kindergarten, housing surge drive growth in number of students; facilities plan could cost $100 million.
The school board expects to complete by mid-October details of the facilities plan as well as a 2014 voter referendum to help pay for the upgrades.
An enrollment and demographic study conducted by former State Demographer Hazel Reinhardt predicted that Wayzata High School could see growth of up to 900 additional students over the next 10 years. Last year, 3,215 students were enrolled there, placing it among the largest high schools in Minnesota.
Reinhardt’s study was part of a three-year comprehensive facilities study commissioned by Wayzata schools. The study revealed a substantial need for more space at the elementary, middle and high school level within the district, as well as infrastructure upgrades to repair or replace things like roofs, parking lots, lighting systems and floor coverings.
The accelerated development of single-family homes in the district (see related story about the growth boom in Plymouth) and the Legislature’s decision to fund all-day kindergarten for all students starting in 2014 have been cited as the two major factors driving the projected influx of new students.
“The incredible growth in family-oriented housing developments and the opportunity to offer state-funded all-day K to all families is a one-two punch to our building capacity,” school board Chairwoman Sue Droegemueller said in a statement released by Wayzata Schools. “We are delighted to welcome new resident families to our schools, and we need to ensure we have spaces for them when they arrive.”
The school district already began wheeling and dealing over the summer. On June 26, the district closed a deal that sold a 19-acre piece of property to GWS Land Development for $2.9 million. The plot of land, located at 16440 County Road 47, was originally slated to be the site of a new elementary school. Instead, Wayzata Schools opted to expand or remodel three of its elementary schools. Shortly after the deal closed, Plymouth approved a proposal to develop the land into a 51-home addition to the Steeple Hill development.
“The land was less than ideal for any purposes that we would’ve used it for,” said Jim Westrum, executive director of finance and business for Wayzata Schools. “It was a good investment for the district ... but there were some wetlands and other items that made that land less functional for a school district.”
District buys golf course land
In a separate but related deal, Wayzata Schools bought a 37-acre chunk of Elm Creek Golf Course that sits adjacent to Wayzata High School. The $7.4 million purchase closed on July 24, and includes the portion of the golf course that lies below Elm Creek.
GWS originally was under contract to purchase all of Elm Creek Golf Course, but agreed to part with the southern section after Wayzata Schools offered to sell its land on County Road 47.
The school district has not decided yet what it will do the land, but one proposal being discussed involves shifting athletic fields and parking lots to make room for an addition to the high school, according to Westrum.
There will be a preliminary presentation on the facilities/referendum plan at the school board meeting on Aug. 12. The board then will discuss the presentation on Aug. 26, review a revised proposal on Sept. 9, and is expected to finalize its decisions on Oct. 14.
Ben Johnson • 612-673-4499