Parents, teachers and students who packed into the St. Paul City Council chambers Wednesday celebrated after council members gave the go-ahead for a major expansion to the Linwood Monroe Arts Plus lower campus.
The council was considering an appeal from some community members who live near the public magnet school. The neighbors opposed the planned addition, which they said is out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood and would remove much of the outdoor green space students and community members use.
The city's Board of Zoning Appeals previously approved the variance the St. Paul School District needed to add on to the aging school. The neighbors filed an appeal to the City Council, hoping it would overrule the board's decision and block the addition.
"The sheer size of the new structure will undoubtedly change the character" of the neighborhood, said Stephen Warch, one of the appellants.
Others expressed support for the project. Kim Kroetsch, a music teacher at the school, said wide-ranging support exists for the project and that it's time for the school district to bring the building into the 21st century.
Council members said they were sympathetic to both situations but had to base their decision on whether the Board of Zoning Appeals erred in approving the plan — and they couldn't find any errors.
Linwood Monroe Arts Plus has two campuses. The lower campus was built in 1922, and school officials said it is outdated. St. Paul Public Schools plans to extend the building and increase its height.
The expansion will allow the school to move fourth-graders and prekindergarten classes into the lower campus. Principal Bryan Bass said shifting students to a new building in fourth grade doesn't align with best practices and could contribute to widening the achievement gap.