The bulldozers have arrived and the digging has commenced in the South St. Paul School District.
Six months after passing a $26.7 million bond referendum, the district has broken ground on additions and remodeling projects at Lincoln Center Elementary and Kaposia Education Center.
The construction will update aging facilities, allow groups of students to move into new buildings and accommodate the district’s growing enrollment.
“The design of educational facilities has a profound impact on how students learn and teachers teach,” said Superintendent Dave Webb.
Already underway is a three-story classroom addition at Lincoln and a two-story classroom addition and commons-area renovation at Kaposia.
Plans for updates to the South St. Paul secondary building are in the draft stage and the school board is “just finalizing some last-minute details” on them, said Ann Counihan, board member.
The secondary building will see an addition to accommodate the district’s sixth-graders, a new STEM area, a bigger cafeteria and an improved media center. A new gym will be added to the Packer Activity Center.
Butch Moening, principal of South St. Paul Secondary, is touring area schools to look at cafeterias, media centers and STEM areas to see what has worked best elsewhere, Counihan said.
Secondary building construction will begin this summer and should be finished in the fall of 2015. At the elementary schools, exteriors will be complete by January 2014 and interiors by June 2014.
Counihan said she is most excited for the new opportunities for sixth-graders and early childhood students, both groups that will be moving into new buildings once construction is completed.
In moving to the secondary building from the elementary schools, sixth-graders will get to take a wider range of classes, like world language and arts electives. And because of new elementary school space, early childhood programming will soon be integrated into elementary buildings instead of at a storefront leased site.
All the new space will allow the district to accommodate its increasing enrollment, too. “We’re getting a ton of new families moving into town — a ton,” Counihan said.
The growth is fueled in part by the availability of affordable homes, she said, but “the biggest reason is that South St. Paul has a great tradition of excellence in its schools.”
Though the district passed operating and technology levies in 2009, it hadn’t passed a bond referendum since 2000.