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Shingle Creek school sale withers, demo may follow

  • Blog Post by: Steve Brandt
  • October 9, 2013 - 2:31 PM

Shingle Creek school is still closed, still empty, still unsold and may still be headed for demolition.

It looked like some of that was due to change Tuesday night when the Minneapolis school board was poised to vote on a staff recommendation to sell the North Side school for about $400,000.

But the administration was forced to pull the matter from the board’s agenda at the last minute when the proposed sale fell through.

According to the board and administration, the proposal from Minnetonka Funding Group LLC was withdrawn after KIPP Stand Academy, a charter school located on the west edge of downtown, decided not to be the school’s tenant.  Board Chair Alberto Monserrate said that he was told that the KIPP board was unable to reach a lease agreement with Minnetonka.

“It was a complete surprise,” he said.

That couldn’t be independently verified with the school because its representatives didn’t respond to repeated Star Tribune inquiries.

The sale breakdown is the latest in a quirky story since the school closed in 2007 as part of a larger wave of district school closings, especially on the North Side, as enrollment fell.

In 2010, the district removed asbestos and ductwork from the building, and it’s been sitting unheated since.  Only then did the district ask city permission to raze the building. It was supported by some neighbors who said that the one-story 1958 building was becoming an eyesore, but the neighborhood group opposed demolition.  The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission denied the demo application but was reversed by the City Council, which granted it with the proviso that the district market the building for six months.  

That generated an offer of $1.175 million last spring from Charter School Property Solutions but the board rejected it in May, not knowing which charter or private school might move in. Kim Ellison, who holds the board’s North Side seat, said then she was concerned that the sale could open the door to a low-quality school opening in the building.

She was more comfortable with KIPP as an occupant, although the Minnetonka offer was only about one-third the earlier offer.

KIPP is part of a national 20-state network of charter schools that has drawn considerable attention for claiming success with a largely minority, low-income enrollment. But its local school last year reported only 40 percent proficiency on state math tests, 36 percent on science and 28 percent on reading among its mostly black middle-school students.

The district said last year that it would cost $280,000 to raze the school, but that was cheaper than the $2.8 million it estimated would be needed to make the building usable after it removed asbestos and ductwork, leaving holes in walls and ceilings.

Monserrate said the building may be at the end of the road.  “I think it’s getting to the point-- I’m speculating here—it’s in pretty bad shape.  I’m surprised that there were schools interested in it.  The viability of that school is dwindling.”

(Photos: Above--Shingle Creek school; Right above--Alberto Monserrate; Right below--Kim Ellison)

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